Happy Chinese New Year

February 14, 2010 | Posted by Chris

Today marks the New Year in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, and Beijingers ushered in the Year of the Tiger last night with abundant firework celebrations, Xinhua News reports. Also known as Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is by far the most important holiday in modern China, and it is mainly regarded as a time for visiting family. However there are other characteristics of Chinese New Year, and none are more apparent to an outsider than peoples' zeal for fireworks. Openly sold by authorized outlets, fireworks are legal during the holiday and they have long been a tradition of Spring Festival, in which legend has it that fireworks are set off to scare away bad luck and spirits while making way for the upcoming year's good luck. The Chinese New Year holiday lasts 15 days in all, and during that time fireworks can be consistently heard throughout Beijing, although they reach their peak on New Year's Eve into the early morning of New Year's Day. There are great public safety concerns surrounding the use of fireworks, and last night about 880,000 officers, firemen and volunteers mobilized to ensure that infrastructure, cultural relics, and other prohibited areas were free of fireworks. It may be recalled that last year an errant firework set ablaze part of the state media compound in Beijing, including the near-complete, 30-story Mandarin Oriental Hotel, resulting in $24 million USD in damage. Fortunately no major incidents have been reported this year -- no doubt a good start to the Year of the Tiger.

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