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Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year in the Netherlands

As I write this, it is quiet outside. The bombing has stopped, the fires have been put out, the riots have been doused, the smoke has more or less cleared, and, though the streets and sidewalks are still littered, the sky is once again dark at night.

No, this is not the aftermath of war. It is the aftermath of New Year celebrations in the Netherlands.

Once Sinterklaas has ended, mailboxes are nailed up or given mouths that barely allow one thin envelope to slip through. Trash cans are removed all together or boarded up. Specials on television this time of year center around trauma wards at hospitals where numerous victims of firework incidents are treated as they come to only to realize that they are one hand or eye or several fingers less.

Just after Christmas, the noises begin. Exploding firecrackers and home made bombs are continuously set off day and night in preparation for when the real-deal - the professional fireworks - are available for purchase three days prior to New Year's Eve. Those who can't wait that long skip off across the border to Germany where the good are sold year-round. Dog walking becomes an unpleasant adventure for both man and his best friend and the cat starts to spend more and more time under the bed or sofa.

My father still talks about his first New Year's in the Netherlands. "It was like walking through the streets of Baghdad!" Perhaps a better title for this entry would have been Bombs Over Breda.


As for me, though the insanity of the fireworks madness irritates me and I'm always thankful that each year we emerge unscathed, I like to look on the brightside. Because there's always more positive than negative... we just tend to be more attracted to the negative.

Whether grocery shopping or just passing by someone on the street, I can't tell you how many beste wensens (best wishes-es), gelikkig nieuw jaars (happy new years), and fijn jaarwisselings (happy year changes) I have heard - and still continue to hear. It was touching to see groups of families and friends gathering together outside after the New Year countdown to pass along well-wishes to neighbors and watch the fireworks. Then, of course, there's oliebollen and champagne!

Though they can get out of hand and become highly descructive, watching the fireworks light up the sky from midnight onward is such a beautiful sight. As an American, Christmas was always the time to be with family and relish in the love and happiniess those dearest to you bring. Here in the Netherlands, I get the feeling that the Dutch have this sensation on New Year's Eve.

To cap off this post, here's my New Year celebration collection from 2010. Happy New Year!!!

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10 comments:

Jules: said...

I think it's just Utrecht :-D Nijmegen was quiet until New Year's Eve, when all of the cats--our three plus two we are cat-sitting--started fighting for space under our bed...

Tiffany said...

Well, I highly highly HIGHLY doubt that it's just Utrecht ;) Not from what I've heard, read and seen anyway! Utrecht is actually pretty light as far as NYE festivities go. Sounds like Nijmegen's on the sleepy side on NYE - lucky you! Hope the cats were all able to find a hiding place! We cheat and use a calming formula with Turner :-0 Happy 2011!

susymac said...

it's ALWAYS crazy...i've been here for 10yrs first living in assen and now in a small town/village in groningen...new years is always full with good wishes, lots of gezellig neighbours and crazy fireworks...i've learned to embrace it...my dog and puppy are unscathed..my cats,sleeping on their cushions...lekker hapjes and glasses of champagne....welcome to holiday season in the netherlands!!

Tiffany said...

I think that's what it boils down to... learning to embrace it. And it certainly seems like you have :) In the 3 NYE's we've celebrated so far, I can tell you that my dog certainly hasn't lol! Poor guy. Maybe after he's been around here as long as you have :)

Melynda said...

It's also a challenge with kids who are easily spooked! My four-year-old woke up and said she wasn't scared of the booms but of the "kietelen". It took us a while to realize she meant the "ssssssssss" sounds after the explosions!

Tiffany said...

Aww how sweet! I can imagine it must be spooky for them at night. Love the use of kietelen. Almost makes it sound less scary already :)

Invader_Stu said...

Every expat I know can never believe their eyes on New Years Eve. I can't. Words can't do it justice. You try and tell someone how crazy it gets and they think they understand until they see it. It's just... crazy.

Tiffany said...

Well said! It really does have to be experienced. Though I think I'm getting used to at because the craziness diminishes slightly with each year...

Glocal Girl said...

It definitely took me some getting used to... all those celebratory explosions above Amsterdam! This was a wonderful post which appropriately summed up the spirit in the air on New Years.

cheers!
www.GlocalGirl.com

Tiffany said...

I'm still not there and this is my 3rd New Year here. Though I feel like it has gotten less shocking with each year. In Amsterdam, I'm sure it was wilder than here in Utrecht, so kudos to you for surviving ;)