it was the eve of the spring festival.
dusk was just falling as i slurped up the last bit of rice and laid down my chopsticks.
“they're starting!” cried my friend excitedly. “quick! quick!”
outside, children were running everywhere. their happy voices and faces made me warm inside, despite the cold wind that greeted me. my friend thrust a bundle of straw in my hands. “come!” he cried. i giggled as i ran to catch up to him; the children's excitement was a fever that spread to even the big kids like us.
i soon joined a rowdy bunch of children and teenagers who were building a bonfire in the middle of a path that ran through the wheat fields. “here,”said my friend, handing me a long bamboo pole. “put some of your straw in the fire. then tie the rest onto your pole like this.” he demonstrated with his own materials, and i followed his example. then he thrust both our torches into the fire and handed me mine. “now run!”
and run i did----we all did. for miles and miles around, as far as i could see, there were small orange specks scattered about, and i could hear the distant screaming and laughing of other children running up and down the rice field path. for several hours into the night i helped build fires and keep an eye on the younger children. occasionally i, too, lit a torch and ran around like a mad man, screaming and waving a flaming bamboo pole.
this festival, which occurred six days before chinese new year, was just one of the experiences during the visit to my friends over the spring festival. as it was explained to me, the purpose behind this festival was to allow the children to have fun burning up all the straw leftover after the harvest. later, the ash is used for fertilizer.