Tradition and protocol for New Year's Eve in The Netherlands calls for complete mayhem. Chaos with a capital C you might say.
Me, I just call it crazy.
In a country which regulates just nearly everything which can be regulated it seems obvious come to Old Year's Night, that absolutely no rules apply. In the weeks preceding, fireworks are sold at the grocery stores, the plant nurseries and various other locations. Selections include the benign hand held sparklers and bottle rockets, but also include the kinds of things I do not know the names for and would hardly dare to guess the firepower behind. The fun (?) begins in the days prior to the 31st and it is not uncommon to have a firecracker thrown under your bike wheels as you cycle blithely down the lane. Nor is it odd to hear the rapid fire rhythm of hundreds of crackers set off together to reverberate off row house walls and narrow alleys.
Come the last day of the year proper, the fire play is random but constant throughout the day. It seems rather obvious to this onlooker that the stockpiles of explosives must be vast as players light the lines hours before the clock strikes midnight.
Midnight itself is a wonder, albeit a slightly-frightening-unbelievably-loud-wonder, to behold. After the initial shout: Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! and the standard three-kiss affectionate display for all in the room or at the party, the front doors of homes are thrown open wide and all pour into the streets where the name of the game seems to be DO IT FAST AND DO IT WILD. The fireworks are launched from the street, from the tops of trash cans, from the garden walls and they are launched with an energy which, unless witnessed, cannot be believed.
The result is a cacophonous nightmare which is simultaneously terrifying and totally stimulating.
All the while fire is exploding overhead and underfoot, neighbors call out Happy New Year and greet each other with the friendly three kisses--right cheek, left cheek, right cheek--for one and all. Everyone laughs and smiles. Everyone groans about the noise and the craziness. Everyone thrills over this very Dutch way to bring it in.
Lest you begin to think that it's all over in a moment I feel compelled to point out that noise and chaos is the lullaby still echoing in the streets well past 3:00 a.m.
Personally, I believe that makes it reasonable that the first resolution of the New Year is:
1. Stay in bed all day on the first.
I am happy to report that's a resolution fulfilled.
Happy New Year to all. Here's hoping 2008 is full of wonder.
(please pardon the *lack of* video skills here. I am a complete novice. you'll note the first part of the video is angled incorrectly. I fix it later, I am not a complete dork, just a slight one.)