The Blue Blot

notes, finds & fragments of research

Calm & Explosive ~ Another Dutch New Year’s Eve

A new year has begun! To all a happy New Year; with all the best in health, success and happiness possible. I hope everyone had either a calm and relaxed New Year’s Eve or an exciting one with lots of fun.

I have spent many eventful New Year’s Eves in the past, at places where flocks of camera crews gather to enable live broadcasts of singing Auld Lang Syne under fireworks (London), or mass gathering and loudly counting to the ball drop (New York). But I also hold warm memories to the Austrian cosiness of a calm evening with friends waiting for the deep sound of the Pummerin bell and afterwards a poor attempt to a waltz on the street; followed the next day by attending, a tad groggy, the annual concert in the glimmering splendour of the Große Saal of the Wiener Musikverein. There was also one obscure yet hilarious celebration in Bruxelles, where the clock of the town hall didn’t function properly, a heavy storm spoiled the city’s celebratory fireworks on the Mont des Arts, and as a result everyone, gathered within the mass of people on Grand Place, had to decide when it was midnight by means of their own watches – which resulted in a chaos unsurpassed – and which, quite frankly, was indeed only possible in that city on that very location.

This year I stayed in the Netherlands again; and, oh my, how I missed this calm serenity.
In this country one is reminded about the upcoming New Year’s Eve, from as early as the start of December with an occasional –bang– or –ieeeep– caused by early fireworks. This gradually becomes more frequent during the month, up until the last day of the year when it feels like living twenty miles away from a warzone, with snipers rapidly approaching. I’ll never get used to this tradition of individual fireworks which is so present among the Dutch.
I do appreciate the beautiful effects and colours of fireworks one sees when it is shot up to the skies with the intention of displaying something nice. I just do not get the point of the noise and explosions which are favoured above it. Yes, the Chinese have a centuries-old tradition of this, but for them it has a point and a ceremonial character – I have witnessed it many a time, and even front-row when I happened to stay with a friend who lived in Amsterdam’s China Town, on the day of their new year’s celebration. The Dutch tradition has, to my knowledge, nothing to do with it. If anything, it seems to be more of a juvenile tradition, seen to the groups of very(!) young children (mostly boys, of course) carrying bags with fireworks (explosives more likely…) worth a year’s allowance. My dislike is most likely caused by a complete lack of this primal sense of excitement one seems to feel when something burns heavily or explodes loudly. But also, and the journals prove my point, because I feel it’s dangerous. I see unsupervised children doing ‘tricks’ with fireworks which can only be compared to playing with a hand grenade. And I wonder how many people will start the new year without a hand, a damaged eye, or the loss of a few fingers. In the end it’s everyone’s own choice, of course; but for next year, I might just try to avoid the last Dutch days of December.

After all that happened during the past year, we opted for a quiet evening. We have watched a few old classic movies, like Waterloo Bridge (USA/1940), with a phenomenal Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor. I had seen it years before, but had never noticed the song – yes, Auld Lang Syne! – played during the famous scene of the farewell waltz. And so I am closing this first post of the year with that very scene – have a good year, everyone.



One comment on “Calm & Explosive ~ Another Dutch New Year’s Eve

  1. Aude
    January 2, 2014

    So true! As a Dutch woman of 42 I mostly felt obliged to participate in this dangerous tradition of individual fireworks for the sake of “tradition” and the lost in translation state of “gezelligheid”. I remember vividly that, when I was just a tiny tot, my mother would carry me outside to watch the fireworks. I didn’ t feel comfortable at all with the sounds of war surrounding me while my mother kept telling me to look up and watch the beautiful fireworks. Now as a mother myself I do everything to avoid putting my 6 year old daughter at risk. We stay in as much as possible on the 31st of December and, as I live in Amsterdam, I even try to talk to those unsupervised young boys and warn them about the hazards of playing with fireworks. I also try to make them stop all together at least untill I past them safely. Do you think they listen? Hardly. One boy, I think he must have been about eleven years old shouted back at me that we live in a free country and that he has the right to play with fireworks on the 31st of December. Yes he has the right to lose a hand or an eye, but since most of these serious injuries happen to innocent bystanders my question is whether he has the right to make someone else lose an eye or two for that matter. I signed the petition on the internet against the use of individual fireworks and hope that eventually my daughter will not be exposed to the dangers I endured as a teenager. In my hometown boys would throw “rotjes” to pretty girls they liked but didn’t have the guts to approach with sensible lingo. I’m glad I survived but actually started making arrangements to move to a more civilized and peaceful country in the near future. Or at least book a holiday for next years New Years Eve.

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