Monday, February 15, 2010

China welcomes the year of the Tiger

Spring Festival celebrations brought with it spectacular fireworks displays in towns and cities across China. On the eve before the new year streets emptied as people headed to friends and relatives to partake in a traditional feast of meats; duck, pork and chicken. Firecrackers constantly broke the silence throughout the evening in Kaiyuan, a small provincial town to the south of Kunming in China's southern Yunnan province. It would have been a similar scene across China. Drink is seemingly an important part of the evening as are gifts of money to children. In the household where tvnewswatch was invited, several envelopes containing money were handed to children while baijiu, Chinese white spirit, was drunk with toasts to the new year.

After drinking and much eating many families stay at home and watch the annual Spring Festival Gala on Chinese Central Television. The event is a mixture of sketches and dance acts, many of which are little more than thinly veiled propaganda messages. Venturing onto the streets, many were extremely empty. At the heart of town hundreds had gathered to set off fireworks and await the strike of midnight. The main square in Kaiyuan was alive with people setting of all types of firecrackers. Police seemed very relaxed and maintained a low profile as people enjoyed the festivities.

At the stroke of midnight a large fireworks extravaganza began, paid for by the local government. Lasting at least twenty minutes the colourful display reflected off the Dong He River which runs through central Kaiyuan. But even as it ended many people staid and continued to party; drinking, eating smelly tofu and chatting at riverside bars. Others continued to set off yet more firecrackers, something which continued well into the early hours. 
While the festivities drew to a close, bangs and explosions could still be heard across the town. On Valentine's Day people also engaged in a western tradition of giving red roses to loved ones. Lovers could be seen sitting alongside the river, and street sellers sold single red roses for around 10 RMB [£0.93 / $1.46]. But there were few restaurants open in which to enjoy a romantic meal. However, many bars along the river stayed open and fireworks continued to resonate throughout the evening as couples and other youngsters drank beer and enjoyed street food.

In both western and eastern societies, the beginning of a new year brings hope and promise. The Year of the Tiger is particularly auspicious for the Chinese. According to Chinese astrology, the Tiger is said to be lucky vivid, lively and engaging. The Tiger is incredibly brave, reflected by its willingness to engage in battle. The Chinese also say having a Tiger in the house is the very best protection against the evils of fire, and burglary.

People born in the Year of the Tiger are said to have the following qualities and characteristics: courage, vehemence, self-reliance, friendliness, hopefulness, resilience, vanity and disregard.

As for the New Year of the Metal Tiger in 2010, Chinese astrologers say that the Metal element gives the Tiger its sharpness in action and speed of thought. Tigers born in the Metal year likely to stand out in a crowd. With an inspiring assertiveness and competitive demeanour, Tigers determine their goals and do anything necessary to achieve them.

The Tiger sometimes suffers from mood swings and temper tantrums however. The Tiger can be known to jump to conclusions or to act too quickly without weighing the options or understanding the consequences. This is a flaw Tigers must learn to curb. The west may thus see a more than determined China in the coming year, but one that may be even less open to diplomacy and concessions. That is if one believes in astrological superstition!

tvnewswatch, Kaiyuan, Yunnan, China

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