There's a certain peacefulness that descends on Shanghai during Chinese New Year. The city -- usually home to 23 million people -- empties out as people travel home. The subways are full to bursting with families and suitcases and gift boxes... and suddenly they're not. The streets are empty, most stores closed.
The sounds of Chinese New Year in Shanghai are different from the everyday bustle -- which is not to say it's quiet. Those who remain set off a week-long barrage of firecrackers and fireworks, crescendo-ing on the first and fifth nights, an assault on the senses to festively welcome the new year.
I look out at the fireworks, launching from the courtyard of our apartment building, exploding just above eye level, and the noise reverberates through me. From the windows on the other side, we can see fireworks at a distance, flashes of brightness all across the skyline. And the peace of the writhing city settles on me as well.