There was a time, years ago, when Chinese New Year’s Eve in Beijing was the world’s most bombastic celebration of existence, a collective yell held for three straight hours amid concussions of light and racket. Because here we were, we declared, right here. Earth shook heaven. I remember forked lightning, fractals of red, blue, and orange, air rent with the shape of sound. It felt surreal to be centered in this steady beat of a burgeoning and explosive declaration, ours, that we had survived and would survive yet (Do your worst!), and yet it felt right. If this seems like a poor conceit — Man speaks to Nature — so be it, I don’t know how else to describe it: to be caught up in something so furious and chaotic and human-made and mad.
Eventually, those days will be past, as we insist on insisting and whingers continue to whinge — about pollution, etc. Eventually, as on pedestrian streets refurbished for tourists, Chinese New Year’s fireworks will be launched pro forma, a nod to another forgotten tradition. I’m not upset. Maybe fireworks are antiquated. Maybe we would, in our aging and agingness, prefer a quiet toast to the bygone year, a tap on our chest as polite reminder to the unseen widow weaving in our heart, before we retire to our solitude. Let us wangle compliance from the unruly and unsettled. Let us sip scotch in the subdued warmth and subdued expression of a gentle fire, muzzled nature. Let’s act our age, or older, of English sophistication or first-world cultivation, raise unsmudged port glasses with kisses for loved ones and the same untelling smile we’ll wear to our graves.
Or, I don’t know, fuck it. On this day, I mean. If not quite yell in the nip and shade until breath disappears, at least light something up. Tonight: breathe.
Have a good one. Just don’t break anything, yourself or others. We’ll see you in the new year.