October 1st is National Day in China, and it marks the day that the Communists declared victory in the Civil War and started the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Do the math, and that means that today is the 60th Anniversary of the PRC. This milestone definitely did not escape the Chinese government today, as it went all out in celebrating the occasion.
There were two main events of the day, and both happened on Tiananmen Square right outside the Forbidden City. The first was the morning parade, which started at 10 a.m. and went through about noon. Over 190,000 dancers, politicians, and soldiers participated. There were legions of marching troops, fighter planes flying overhead, floats celebrating Chinese accomplishments, and always lots of dancing.
The second event was a spectacular multi-media extravaganza that went from 8-10 p.m. It also involved tens of thousands of performers. Celebrities sang patriotic songs as neon lights dazzled and hundreds of highly costumed dance troops performed. Thousands of fireworks lit the sky as bright as day. Politicians and their VIP guests watched it all from the Gate of Heavenly Peace.
Like nearly all Chinese, we watched everything from our television. The fun part was that we were joined by Tian’s mom and dad too. And while the view was probably better from our couch, it felt very odd to be only miles away from Tiananmen Square where the biggest celebration in 10 years in China was taking place.
It would have been fun to be there in person, but security was extremely tight, the subway and roads were closed, and it was all by invitation only. Indeed, there were so many participants in the vicinity, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were very few spectators at all. The party appeared to be a true made-for-tv experience.
While I was sort of mesmerized by all of the lights, sound, and language, Tian couldn’t help but feel a little bored. She also wondered how much time and money was spent on the festivities, resources that might possibly have done a bit of good allocated elsewhere. I could understand how she felt; I’ve thought the same thing watching some US ceremonies.
The best part of national day is the time off from work. Most people don’t have to work again until Friday, October 9. I’m using this time to learn as much Chinese as possible and also to get to know Tian’s parents who are here with us until the 8th. We’re going to be keeping a pretty low profile – just seeing some extended family and some sites.