This was my first Chinese New Year in China since I was five, and my day-after impression is this: forget about New Year's celebrations in every other country, forget about the Fourth of July, forget even the parties in Brazil on any of their many festivals... the scene that took place last night in every neighborhood and on just about every street here in Beijing was the single most ridiculous, exciting, indescribable, over-the-top thing I have ever seen. The night was lit up. The city was transformed into a war zone, with gunpowder exploding in all directions. You saw folks place their boxes of fireworks in the middle of the street, light them and dart back into the sidewalks of safety, like rebels setting charges. (I had the misfortune of not seeing one of these fuses, and the explosion, just a few meters away, made me jump. People around me laughed.)
I was told last night wasn't as grand as it has been in the past -- three years ago, for instance, the year after the Chinese government lifted a brief (very brief) moratorium on New Year's fireworks -- owing mostly to the bitter cold, which makes me wonder, This thing could be bigger? I will never, ever watch another pyrotechnic show in the same way as before.
Videos to come, but first the pictures: Xidan and Ginza Mall are never this empty on any other day.