Here in America, far from the fireworks of China and Taiwan, Chinese New Year seems a distant, almost mythical, tradition. Although red paper lanterns decorate the streets of Flushing and Asian organizations take the opportunity to preserve this integral part of their heritage, Chinese New Year in America still seems displaced, a vague shadow of something grander.

Yet Chinese New Year in Asia has changed as well.

For millions of factory workers in China this is the only time they can return home to the countryside to see their families. The annual mass migration to these rural towns is unimaginable in America; all transportation is booked for days or even weeks as workers take the long journey home from the cities.

In Taiwan more people take the long break to go on vacation in addition to or even instead of paying all the usual respects to their families. Taipei lay empty and quiet during my trip to Taiwan during Chinese New Year four years ago.

Fireworks are still a big draw, due to their impressive appearance and ties with the celebration of the removal of evil spirits. Yet the lavish displays come from government funds that could perhaps be used in a better way then feeding a frenzied crowd of several hundred, many of which are injured every year by the explosions.

The world is changing when traditions are loosened and remembered only as what our parents did when they were young. Is this progress or not?


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