Chinese New Year Day 9: Blow Out Your Neighbors’ Windows

An altar in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

An altar in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.


Jade Emperor, they say it’s your birthday. And by they, I mean the industrial sized fireworks that went off by my building this morning at 7 am. My boyfriend and I (in our half- asleep state) surely thought we were under attack. One would think we would be used to it by now, what with the constant barrage of fireworks this past week. But none of them came even close to these. These were literally lit in our parking lot. Our windows rattled, the bed shook, Dom flew in the air, and my heart skipped a beat.

For a moment, I thought I was back in Honduras where the custom is to light firecrackers at stupid o’clock in the morning for birthdays. And to my unpleasant surprise, it seems that I have not escaped the chaos of this tradition in Taiwan. On the bright side, at least I know for that that the blasts are fireworks and not gunshots. In Honduras, the source was always debatable.

The Jade Emperor.

The Jade Emperor.

All throughout the day the louder than usual fireworks have been going off sporadically. I finally asked one of the girls at work about the racket, and she said the fireworks are lit in honor of the Jade Emperor. In class, my students covered their ears  and whined that they wish it would stop. You and me both, kiddo. At first, the fireworks were fun and novel, but now, they are just annoying.

In addition to the fireworks, I have noticed many altars with offerings of food. The altars typically have three layers: one top level with offerings of vegetables, noodles, fruits and cakes, and two lower levels containing wines for the deities below the Jade Emperor. I also spotted some older Taiwanese kneeling in front of the altars in prayer.

At the end of the day, I respect the devotion that the Taiwanese have been showing the past week; it is all very beautiful. But this doesn’t mean I am not anxiously awaiting a day without fireworks.

One can only dream.

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