We were warned, when we first arrived in Shanghai, to get out of town for Spring Festival:
it's what ex-pats were meant to do for the ten day long break from work. And so we did, joining the 225 million people who, during the holiday, reverse the migration pattern that brings workers from their rural villages, their "laojia," to the urban centers.
A few years in, we just couldn't face the frenetic airport/railroad scramble of that exodus & decided to see just how dire it really was to stay in town...
As the city emptied, the streets became eerily quiet. Unimaginably, capitalist enterprise utterly shut down... well, except for the fruit vendors doing a hopping business in the oranges that are the requisite host gifts (today's homophone: good luck.) Negligible car traffic.
And explosive noise! Wild ecstatic primal noise! For hours at a stretch & for days on end! We loved it.
So, ever since, on New Year's Eve, we can be found on the 18th floor balcony of a friend's apartment.
But this year's celebrations seemed a little quieter than usual, the "smoke flowers" a little skimpier. There's a lot of attention in the english-language press about the new government's attempts to curtail extravagance: large banquets have been banned, luxury watch sales are down severely (details here on Evan Osnos' great "Letter from China" blog) & the Propaganda officials want it known that the new President, Xi Jingpin, has cut his menu down to a modest "six dishes and one soup."
Could it be that in the past there was extravagant spending on New Year's Eve explosives by a certain Party, speculates our posse on the 18th floor.
Here it is in all it's glory, shot from that balcony several years back by Artist Kurt Perschke (of the wonderful globe trotting Red Ball Project.) Just 1 single minute out of several hours of pure unmitigated ecstatic profligate extravagance...
And from this year, a view on the frontlines: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=4834493134793