"[The Taiwanese] people take their fireworks extremely serious," as another Amanda living in Taiwan said a few weeks ago. And she is very right!
The first time I celebrated Chinese New Year in Taiwan, I could NOT believe the amount of fireworks and firecrackers that were used during the celebration of the New Year. It begins on or even before New Year's Eve. ALL NIGHT LONG firecrackers and fireworks explode seemingly EVERYWHERE.
That first night, something cracks, whizzes, or pops at least every ten minutes. And, sometimes the cracks, pops, and whizzes last for ten consecutive minutes.
And, we are not talking only formal displays from cities, schools, and companies. We are talking normal people shooting off fireworks (in the little allies between high rises). And, they don't just go off at night, sometimes firecrackers and even fireworks are lit during the day. This year when we were at the day market on New Year's Day, someone lit fireworks over the market area at 10 in the morning. We were sprinkled with ashes. It's crazy, I tell you! Crazy!!
About two or three days after the New Year the use of fireworks and firecrackers slows down a little until the Lantern Festival, which this year is on the 21st. (As I write this, on Thursday evening, I've already seen eight different firework shows from my study window in less than an hour!)
Below are two videos taken at my friend's school on Chinese New Year's Eve. They are each about one minute from about 10-15 minutes of a fireworks show at her school. So, just multiply each video by about 7, and you more or less can get the full effect.
According to my Chinese teacher and a video we watched in Chinese class (11 years ago! oh my!!), firecrackers are a part of Chinese New Year because of a legend about a dragon named "Nian" (which is the same as the Chinese word for "year"). This man-eating dragon descended from the mountains every year in the winter to devour humans before going back into the mountains to hibernate. One year the townspeople, of a village that was often preyed upon decided to take action and fight against Nian. They exploded bamboo that had been filled with gun powder in order to try to scare Nian away. And, it worked! So, they were able to "guo nian" (過年) or "pass over Nian," and as long as they did this each year, he didn't bother their village.
Again, it sounds like this legend could have roots in the Old Testament, right? Could Nian be the Chinese version of the angel of death from the tenth plague? I don't know, maybe.
It's gonna be awesome yall!! :)