It’s official – 2017 is here. If we had any thoughts of bringing in the New Year quietly at home or even of taking an early night, there was no chance of that in this country. Here in Nieuw Vennep, the New Year entered with a bang – actually, thousands of bangs, as the sky was lit up with fireworks for well over an hour. The Dutch excel at New Year pyrotechnics – this year spending a mere €68 million in a few days. As well as organised public firework displays, it seems like nearly every household sets off their own private stash in the garden or on the street. Dangerous? Yes! This year there were 45,000 calls to the fireworks complaints hotline, more than 200 small firework-related fires in Amsterdam, 4,000+ calls to the fire brigade in Rotterdam alone and, sadly, many incidents of permanent eye damage and other injuries to members of the public, including children.
In rural areas there are giant bonfires – some of them built like towers – which are lit at midnight. As natives of Northern Ireland, we are quite familiar with the bonfire thing; but the one aspect of the whole pyromania that seems craziest is the tradition of blowing up milk churns. This involves placing some carbide (explosive stuff) inside an old-fashioned milk churn with water, waiting for the gas to build up and then add a flame to watch the lid blast off the top, creating an impressive fireball in the process. There are competitions to see how far the lids blow. Follow the links below to see the action and just what can happen! Fortunately, nobody in our street was into carbide shooting – we just stood outside along with our neighbours and watched the action (though the foggy conditions and dense smoke from the fireworks didn’t make it easy to see very far).
Earlier on New Year’s Eve we were invited to join some neighbours for coffee and the traditional New Year speciality ‘oliebollen’ – deep-fried balls of fruit bread smothered in icing sugar. Truly delicious! Next morning, New Year’s Day, we were off early to drive to Amsterdam, as David was preaching at the English Reformed Church. The quiet roads were a dream – the pyromaniacs all needed a lie-in, I expect! Our first New Year here has been eye-opening, as well as ear-splitting. Happy New Year!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFccxjsp8SQ (this is a whole other level of crazy!)