I am not a morning person. I never have been. I never will be. But the fact that I’m now a high school teacher means I at least have to pretend.
So Monday through Friday, I set my alarm for 6am, giving me a solid hour to quietly enjoy a giant cup of coffee. I make breakfast. I cake concealer under my eyes. I bike to school to get my blood pumping. By the time my students enter the classroom at 8am, I fake a smile and actually resemble a human being.
This routine works for me, but only because there’s the promise of Saturday and Sunday–days where I’m free to be a pig and lie in bed long after the sun has come up.
But alas, I live in China, a.k.a “Land of the Eternal Fireworks.”
That’s right, fireworks in the morning. In the daytime. You can’t even see them. But dear God can you hear them.
Don’t get me wrong, there are fireworks at night too; it’s just that I can understand this. You can see them. I’m not sleeping at 9pm. But at 6am on the weekend? Well, that’s another story.
To understand why the heck this happens, I asked some of my Chinese coworkers. Chinese New Year has just concluded, so I thought it an appropriate time. Especially after just experiencing a sold 24-hours of crackling and reverberating walls.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. Chinese people are very superstitious and they feel that the loud noises drive away evil spirits and bad luck. This is true all year long, but especially at the start of the new year. There’s apparently a competition of sorts, to see who can be the first person to launch a firecracker on New Year’s Day. The winner will receive good luck for the whole year. I’m pretty sure everyone in my apartment complex was gunning for the title.
2. Fireworks not only scare off ghosts, but they signify joy and celebration for things like the birth of a new baby, or a marriage.
3. Fireworks are also necessary for deaths and funerals.
4. Fireworks are dirt cheap in China (makes sense, when you think of all the firecrackers branded with “Made in China” stamps), so everyone can afford to buy them.
5. The Chinese invented firecrackers nearly 2,000 years ago, and they’ve been an integral part of the culture ever since.
So there you have it. Whether it’s scaring away a ghastly ghoul, celebrating the purchase of a new home, grieving the death of a loved one, or the addition of a loved one to your family, you can do it in style in China. And, apparently, you can do it at 6am. No one will mind (except for the blonde, grouchy, sleep-deprived foreigner in building 34).