11 February 2014

Chinese New Year! Happy?

Happy Chinese New Year!

I feel like I now kind of  have an idea of how non-Christians feel during Christmas in very Christian places.

Michael just had several days off due to Chinese New Year. Since I couldn't get him to go traveling, and I realized that finding a Chinese family to spend the holiday with would just mean way too much eating of things I struggle to eat, we used the time for watching several movies and getting lots and lots of sleep. I even got Michael to do some YouTube workouts with me.

Staying inside was a good idea, because fireworks went off for a week, all day long, no matter the hour. I heard them at 3 AM, I heard them at 3 PM. (And I still hear several blasts every day.) While it's great that people felt festive, I felt frustrated by their unwillingness to listen to public warnings about fireworks making the pollution worse. The norm for Shanghai is already bad for "sensitive groups," which includes me. While Michael excitedly took videos, I repeatedly checked my pollution levels app.

The amount of fireworks was astounding. Michael nearly posted something about Shanghai being a war zone on Facebook, but I didn't think anyone who had actually lived in a war zone would find that funny, even though it looked like what we imagined repeated bombing would look like. Here's the video he shot:

Can you see how there are clearly a lot of other fireworks going off (as indicated by the bursts of light), but you can't see them because of all the smoke? After the first night of really intense fireworks, the air quality index in Shanghai clearly peaked as a result of all the fireworks at about 460. Beijing got up to 500+ (I've heard that Beijing only reports up to 500 because over that they have to let people miss work). To compare, it looks like Salt Lake City's air quality index peaked at 63 in those 24 hours, and California had some areas get up to almost 200. I know there are places with much worse air (here's looking at you, Iran and India, with your daily averages above 250), but it was so hard to enjoy the new year celebrations and to go to bed knowing that people were filling my lungs with more nastiness despite warnings. I wore a mask for as long as I could bear it and ran the filter all night long.

Chinese New Year Fireworks Pollution photo 2014-01-31060405_zps4a7a3a22.png

A few days later, I read an article about how Xi'an issued a yellow alert on the 31st. Pollution levels there got up to 1006 (doesn't that sound more like a red alert? I guess I don't really know what the levels are). I've always heard that Xi'an is beautiful, but hearing that made me think twice about visiting there.

I started thinking about if there are Christmas traditions that were just as inconsiderate to everyone, and I thought of cutting down trees to use as Christmas trees. I guess we don't usually think much about that because there's no immediate effect noted (as far as I know), but all those trees have to add up to some negative effect, methinks, whether it be less tree-cleaned air or more pollution from transporting all the trees. I have thought before that some day, I would love to buy some kind of potted tree (it doesn't have to be an evergreen) each year, decorate it in December, and then plant it after that. Wouldn't that be awesome? I also thought about how if people were to never stop caroling, that could be really annoying, but not much more than that.

Anyway, did you know that the lunar calendar doesn't keep track of years? I don't really understand how dates are calculated, then--"I've been working at this job for two and a half twelve-year cycles, meaning I started during the year of the rat two cycles ago"? I guess since people's ages increment at the new year, it doesn't really matter, but so many official things are based off of birthdays in the West that I don't really understand how that works and a really rudimentary Google search and asking Michael didn't really answer my question.

Well, have a happy year of the horse (not "whores," BBC).


  1. With the Christmas trees, at least that means there are Christmas tree farms planting trees that might not be there otherwise, maybe? Christmas can get also pretty loud with the relentless Christmas songs in stores, Salvation Army bell ringing, etc.

    For the lunar years thing, I don't know if this is actually how people do it, but you can guess how many cycles back somewhat easily since you just need to get within the right 12-year range. So for example, I never remember my parents' birth years but I remember what Chinese zodiac animal they are, so I just count back until I find the year that has to make sense--probably not going to be wrong on their age by 12 years.

  2. Way to look at the bright side. ;)

    I figured as much with the lunar calendar, but I guess just because I didn't grow up with it, it seems like too much thinking . . . I guess people who use the lunar calendar have the order of the years memorized, yes?