Monday, June 26, 2006

The Big Bang

Firecrackers provided so much fun. To mark the end of Chinese New Year’s fifteen days of celebration, the Chinese (not us though) would have a sumptuous dinner followed by the performance of fireworks and firecrackers. Children would play with firecrackers in all sizes and shapes. Each year, on the fifteen day of the Lunar New Year, one of the wealthiest neighbours, Tuck’s family would provide the grand finale. A long cluster of huge powerful firecrackers was dropped from the highest level, the tenth floor to the ground level. The long stretch was a spectacle and a pride for the Block 13. Such acts were a display of one’s status. Sometimes there would be a number of columns of fireworks as each family brought out theirs hoping to provide the longest and powerful performance.

With everyone anticipating for the detonation, every level was filled with spectators waiting for someone to start theirs. It could be a long wait as everyone wants to be the last. However, they had be lit before the clock struck midnight. The minute one got lit, everyone would applause and the residents living beside the porch would rush to close their windows. The explosions were thunderous. As the fire ignited the crackers on its way up, the porch filled with smoke and red paper fragments flying all over. It was incredible. At the end of the line, was a huge assembly of large power packed firecrackers, which were designed to detonate simultaneously. The finale was thunderous bang sending all the paper fragments flying in all directions.

At the end of this awesome display, the ground level was a sea of red paper fragments. Wading and swimming in a six inches thick sea of fire cracker garbage was pure delight. The Chinese called it “man ti hong”, roughly translated meaning a sea of red.

Each year, we would come up with ideas like removing the explosives from the firecrackers and wrapped them up with cigarette foil together with a small marble. This innovation is a self-detonated explosive. Smash it on the ground and on impact, the marble and concrete ground created a spark igniting the homemade explosive. We would try to outdo each other by creating the largest explosion which was limited by the size of the cigarette foil.

Another favourite was to light a fire cracker and to cover it with an empty can and sees it propelled sky-high. As expected, we competed for the highest jolt.

There were some really crazy pranks by other older boys who aimed fireworks directly into people’s houses. Thankfully, we were responsible enough not to imitate them. Firecrackers were banned later as they caused a lot of accidents and fires.

There were other innovations, which were best not described here, as they were probably the reasons the government banned firecrackers in 1971.

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