Almost midnight near the Drum and Bell tower in northwestern Beijing,China. Bitterly cold, this new years’ festival (chūnjié 春节in Chinese) is based on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, so the holiday can often be held in the frigid depths of winter despite being translated as “Spring Festival.” The 2012 festival was in January, so the lakes of Houhai in Beijing were still frozen solid, and perfect for watching the fireworks.
Setting off traditional fireworks is not just for professionals during the spring festival. Anyone in the city can buy a box of fireworks, set it on the ground, and light the fuse. Midnight is the beginning of the festival, so everyone is outside. the entire city becomes hazy, due to the smoke and soot released by the fireworks. The day after the New Year, particulate counts in the air will climb in all Chinese cities. Many of the bright colors in fireworks comes from atoms vibrating at immensely fast speeds as they are heated, including magnesium, barium, copper, and cadmium. In the past, arsenic and mercury were used in fireworks, but are not anymore. There is low oversight on Chinese factories though, so it is very possible that some compounds are still used that would not be considered acceptable in the West.
Marjolijn has worked at Berkshire Publishing as China Projects Editor since 2011 after completing an MA degree in modern Chinese literature. She loves cooking, baking, and above all chocolate. When it comes to Chinese cuisines, she does not feel limited by being a vegetarian at all, and whenever/wherever possible professes her love of jianbing.