Monday, February 9, 2009

Lantern Festival: Festivity and Fire

Yesterday was the Chinese Lantern Festival. It is the 15th day of the first month of Chinese traditional calender and it marks the end of New Years festivities. It is now the year of the Ox, which I am proud to say is my year. There are images of the Ox all over the city and have been fire works every day, with major displays all over the country on the first day and last day of the New Year period.

Last night being the last legal day the Chinese could set off fireworks, the dangerous displays began. As I was walking with friends to a favorite Mexican restaurant, we felt like we were in a war zone with shells flying all around us. Later that night, I heard that the new CCTV building was on fire and almost cried. Thankfully, it wasn't that building (it's brand new and an amazing feat of architecture as the two towers are leaning towards each other to meet in the middle). But it was the adjacent, also newly constructed and unopened Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Some lives were lost, many people injured, and traffic shut down for miles. It is so sad to see such a large and new building in the heart of Beijing burn down because of the idiocy of fireworks that go on during New Year. Hopefully this will introduce some new regulation and control for next year's festivities.

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