We got off work early for Christmas Eve. Some restaurants were about to close as we picked up our takeout from a small Japanese restaurant in Tai Hang. In Hong Kong, no restaurant is allowed to serve customers (except takeouts) after 6pm. No countdown events, Christmas parties or family gatherings. Just a simple dinner at home for the two of us seemed to be the most appropriate Christmas Eve celebration for this unusual year. 2020 is an extraordinary year. I can hardly recall another incident in my lifetime that has simultaneously affected virtually every single human being in the world. The terrible pandemic is forcing all of us to face the same fear, frustration and isolation. Most planes have been grounded, borders shut, and international tourism has almost come to a complete halt. This abrupt disruption to our lives lead us to realize that celebrating a festive moment with families and friends or spending the holiday season at a foreign land shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Memory is interesting when it works with time. At this bizarre moment of frustrating lock downs and social distancing, a recollection of how we had spent Christmas and New Year in the past two decades remind us how we used to freely experience the world and appreciate every little things around us. Looking beyond the vivid fireworks and lavish parties, it was our curiosity, freedom and gratefulness that allowed these joyful moments to simply make us happy in different stages of our lives. At this time of physical restrictions and emotional stress, looking back at these little moments of ours have become more precious than ever. Everyone deserves memories of celebrations that worth cherishing. Hope our little sharing would remind you some of your own best moments of Christmas.
We wish you Merry Christmas and good health for the upcoming 2021.
Tonight, about a million of locals and visitors gathered in Valparaiso and neighbouring Vina del Mar to watch the largest fireworks display in South America in celebration for the arrival of 2014. Starting from late morning, people on Cerro Artilleria had already begun to claim their best ocean-facing spots for tonight’s fireworks. They put chairs, benches, portable tables, and even ropes to mark their temporary territories on the sidewalk. By midday, vendors at the port were busy cashing in people’s money by selling all sorts of celebration merchandise from party hats to colourful fluorescent bracelets. Supermarkets were pushing the sales of sparkling wines at their entrances. We got some groceries and returned to our B&B room to set up our tripods and “snack table” for the night. As night fell upon, myriads of lights were in place of the yellow sunlight illuminating the famous hills of Valparaiso. But tonight, the starry skyline of the city was a mere backdrop for the most anticipated moment of the year. Live music from the main square could be heard almost immediately when the sun was down. Traffic got diverted. Boats kept going in and out of the port. Crowds of people gathered on the main streets, hillside lookouts, apartment balconies, and any public spaces where the sea could be seen. Upbeat music, laser beams, amateur fireworks, illumination flares continued to lift up the atmosphere of the night. As time approached, we looked at the time on our laptop and waited patiently by the window with our camera and wineglass in hand. As the clock struck midnight, the magnificent fireworks display began shooting up high above the city. We could deeply feel the shake every time the firework exploded in front of us, as if situating in the midst of an air raid. The display lasted for about 25 minutes. Music was loud and every balconies and roof patios seemed occupied by partying crowds. We retired to bed at around 4:30am, while our neighbours were still dancing on roof patios under disco lights. They showed no sign of slowing down. Valparaiso’s magnificent fireworks display did not only signify the closure of 2013 and the opening of 2014; to us, it also drew an extraordinary conclusion to our three-month journey in South America. Tomorrow we would be on our way back to the frozen continent of North America. Under the warm breeze of the Pacific, tonight’s Valparaiso was remarkably bright and beautiful.
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