Mid-Autumn Festival Fireworks Extravaganza

How do Chinese people celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day? There are gatherings with family to exchange small gifts, eat moon cakes, recite poetry and admire the full moon. And of course any festival calls for pyrotechnics.

For 1000 years after the Chinese invented gun powder, they used it only for making firecrackers and fireworks. Ever since ancient times, shooting off firecrackers and fireworks has been associated with festive occasions. Traditionally, Chinese people believed that the sound of firecrackers drove away ghosts and evil spirits (bad luck) and invited good luck and material wealth.

People still set off firecrackers in front of their homes or places of business. Sophisticated city dwellers do so because it’s a fun and noisy way to celebrate special events: birth of a child, a marriage, an anniversary, being accepted into college, getting a promotion at work or a new job, opening a new business, opening the doors for business for the first time after Spring Festival holiday. People who recently arrived in Shanghai from less developed parts of China may still harbor the ancient superstition. Every day we hear the sound of long string of firecrackers going off in our neighborhood. If there ever were any ghosts or evil spirits lurking here, they’ve long since scattered to quieter parts of Shanghai.

Mid-Autumn Festival, New Year’s Eve (December 31) and Spring Festival are special occasions that call for professional fireworks shows. We knew that there had to be a fireworks show somewhere in Shanghai. A quick internet search turned up the 12th Annual International Fireworks Exhibition at Century Park. We rode the subway a few stops from our neighborhood and joined a huge throng of people gathered under a magnificent full moon to take in the show. http://www.shfireworks.org/En/

The September 30 show was the first of a three-night “Music Fireworks Display” exhibition. A jury selected six fireworks show companies from around the world to compete. This year’s competitors were companies based in Belgium, Canada, China, Italy, Poland and Spain. All six shows were assembled in China using Chinese-made fireworks.

The September 30 show featured two 30-minute exhibitions: A Tour of the Aurora Borealis, presented by Apogee Fireworks Company, Montreal, Canada (later announced winner of the competition’s Silver Medal) and a Mid-Autumn Festival-related myth, Chang’e Flies to the Moon, presented by a Chinese company. Huge numbers of pyrotechnic devices comprised each of the two shows. Sophisticated software controlled ignition of the complex array of pyrotechnic devices and synchronized the visual effects with a recorded soundtrack into an awesome barrage of color and sound. Even though the sound system was powerful, explosions often drowned out the music.

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