Monday, February 11, 2008

Keeping Evil Spirits Away

Fireworks are set off during Lunar new Year to attract the attention of good spirits and to frighten the evil spirits away. Any evil spirit left in China right now would need to have a talisman against the blasts, for they are everywhere. They go in bursts, sometimes small firecrackers that sound like pop guns, sometimes large fireworks displays that sound more like howitzers or landmines.

This evening after yoga class it took me half an hour to walk the two blocks from the yoga studio to the bookstore. Granted, some of that time was used admiring the beautiful displays of light but most of the time was used avoiding exploding things on the ground and burning papers falling from the sky. At one point I turned down a side street and had to quickly find shelter when I saw some well-dressed men lighting the fuse to a large box of fireworks - I spent the next couple of minutes huddled around the corner of a nearby building, hands over my ears, looking down to avoid getting anything in my eyes while the two guards standing next to me watched the display, with hands over ears, and stomped on small pieces of paper that were still burning when they touched the ground. At one point one of the guards gave me an all-clear signal, then looked up and immediately signaled for me to put my hands back to my ears. We laughed as the boom went off and more burning paper rained down.

The yoga teacher tonight led the class in English and in Mandarin, giving direction in first one language, then another, all punctuated by explosions. During the class she commented that tonight would be the last night of fireworks. The displays of light have been fun but I'm looking forward to being able to look up as I walk around at night.

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