To be clear, in China, there are 2 new year celebrations every year. Of course, the main event is the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration which is held annually every January/February. However, the Chinese also pay tribute to the traditional western new year’s eve fireworks celebrations. As a result, annually there is a “big bang” at The Bund for the Shanghai New Year’s Eve fireworks show (western new year).
It is no exaggeration to say that 300,000 people attend the Shanghai New Year’s Eve fireworks annually! Additionally, a nice precursor is the light show on The Bund before the main event. Then the main event is the fireworks show over the Huangpu River in front of the monumental Pudong Skyline.
Shanghai New Year’s Eve Light Show
I was staying near the shopping district at Xintiandi in Shanghai new year’s eve which is about 1-2 kilometers from the festivities. Fortunately, this was within walking distance! You can imagine that when 300,000 people converge on a small concentrated area the traffic gets pretty hectic. Therefore, traveling on foot is most efficient and I had some fun along the way.
I had arrived a bit early at the Bund but it was not long before I was engulfed in a sea of humanity. The Bund light show began shortly thereafter and the crowd was captivated.
The show highlighted the row of colonial era buildings along The Bund in an array of ambient lights. When the light show concluded the spotlights were directed towards the Huangpu River because the Shanghai New Year’s Eve fireworks were about to begin.
Shanghai New Year’s Eve Fireworks Show
Safety Precautions Needed for Shanghai Fireworks Show
The fireworks were fantastic! However, now everyone’s focus was on exiting the area. It was extremely congested! One of the things that occurred to me was that the enormous crowd posed a potential hazard. Fortunately for me, I am bigger than most (especially in Asia). At 6 feet 2 inches tall I am strong enough to hold my own in a crowd such as this and I can also see above the fray (usually).
Heavy Police Presence at the Fireworks Show
Furthermore, when I attended the Shanghai New Years Eve fireworks show there was a very heavy police presence. The police had strategically formed lines before the show. Therefore, during and after the show they were in position to divide the crowd by locking arms to keep the crowd segregated. This was a very prudent safety measure and it kept the crowd from gaining uncontrollable momentum in any one direction.
The photo below shows how the police would form a line and when the crowd got too congested they would lock arms and prevent uncontrollable movement in any one direction. However, they would release the crowd at certain pressure points to relieve potentially dangerous congestion. It took a bit of patience to navigate back to the hotel but it was in a controlled manner.
The photo was taken before the show and the crowd was much less concentrated. However, it was prudent to put the police in place beforehand for safety control measures. This was in order to prevent a potential Shanghai New Year Stampede at the fireworks show.
Shanghai New Year Stampede
Unfortunately, the following year on December 31, 2014 a few minutes before midnight tragedy struck. 36 people were killed and 49 were injured during the Shanghai New Year stampede. When I heard about this I was very sad because I remembered all of the happy people at the Shanghai New Year’s Eve fireworks show.
As I suspected most of the casualties were young women and those who would not have been able to keep their feet when the crowd surged. I remember thinking maybe I could have helped pull someone up if I had been nearby when it happened. Unfortunately, this may not have been possible even if I had been there. Hopefully, the crowd will be more subdued in the future.
Shanghai New Year’s Eve 2017 Fireworks
It is a good thing that since that tragic night in 2014 the Shanghai police have strengthened their presence during the show. There were no casualties at the Shanghai New Year’s 2017 fireworks. Additionally, at the Shanghai New Year’s Eve 2016 fireworks everyone was safe and sound.
It is perplexing why everyone is so excited about western new year in Shanghai? The show was fantastic but it was over in a few minutes. Additionally, if I had not been staying at Xintiandi new years eve it certainly would not have been worth the efforts needed to fight the traffic jams.
Shanghai Chinese New Year
The Chinese lunar new year celebration is a much more drawn out event over a 2 week period. This gives everyone time to enjoy the festivities and there is no danger from a crowd surge (train stations notwithstanding). I hope everyone has a Happy and Prosperous Shanghai Chinese New Year celebration! By the way, be sure to visit the Harbin Ice Festival this year!