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Boom boom!

How (and where) to enjoy the fireworks this weekend

This Spring Festival, Beijingers are turning a blind eye to recent government regulations prohibiting the use of fireworks (and the soupy grey sky above) and buying them up by the truckload. Despite official statements warning of legislation against such trigger-happy indulgence in explosives (fireworks are not allowed after 4th March and the storing of more than 30kg of fireworks is illegal), there are over 600 spots to buy fireworks in Beijing alone this week.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that those crackly dynamite sticks will be fired up come New Year’s.

But why?

Since the invention of gunpowder over one thousand years ago, fireworks have been used to ward off bad luck – particularly during Spring Festival. This tradition originated from the idea of scaring a mythical monster called “nian”, also a Chinese word for “year”, with the red lights and loud noises of fireworks.

Other customs include decorating the house, spring cleaning, reunion dinners and staying up late. Whilst the first three are standard fare for most festivals across the world, the last of these – staying up late – has particular significance in China. Staying up late (shousui) is believed to bless one’s parents with longevity besides welcoming the New Year.

You’re bound to notice the combination of these two traditions this weekend as fireworks boom through Beijing into the early hours.

Here’s how to embrace the tradition and, yes, enjoy the tradition this year:

1. Soak up some history The number one area to watch these fireworks is around the Drum and Bell tower in the Houhai Lake District. It is not only a great place to watch the New Year’s fireworks, but also the place to hear the auspicious first bell of the year. People believe that the ringing of the huge bell can drive away bad luck for the year and bring good fortune. It is also increasingly popular to visit mountain temples to wait for the first ringing. The Drum and Bell Bar and East Shore Jazz Cafe are both great roof-top bars in the area to chill out for the night.

2. Watch them outside You can bet on open spaces to get a full view of the night sky. We recommend Tiananmen Square, the largest public space in the world, where people like to gather to celebrate and countdown. Immerse yourself in the festive spirits of the Chinese as everybody cheers in the lunar new year.

3. Enjoy they with a tipple If you want to sip a pint to the sweet, sweet melody of exploding firecrackers, Brussels will be open for Chinese New Year and will have their very own fireworks show with free flow beer for 220RMB. Or you might want to check out Atmosphere, the highest bar in Beijing, to get a wholesome view of the city, which we know will definitely be open for the night.

In the days following this explosives-fuelled extravaganza, you can also visit the temple fairs to observe the parades or join the practice of praying for good luck for the whole year.

And don’t worry about the air quality: the government’s got it all in hand! For the first time, there will be a fireworks discharge meteorological index to monitor the haze situation which will advise as to whether the weather is suitable for fireworks. Good to know.
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