Everyone knows Europeans love to set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve. As a 17-year-old living in Germany, I did not know this. At least not until we went outside at midnight and I nearly peed my pants when someone threw a firecracker at me. (I’m sure my then-boyfriend – who watched me scream in fright – would be shocked to learn I went on to spend five years in the U.S. Army as a Military Policewomen.) Besides setting off fireworks, how do the Dutch celebrate the New Year?
Fire, fire, fire. I would be remiss if I didn’t add that it’s not just fireworks scaring the pants off of me on New Year’s Eve. There is also lots of fire. Oh great, one of my phobias come to life. They build a huge (Guiness World Record size) bonfire on the beach. (This year it was too windy. They set fire to it anyway. Chaos ensued.) But that’s not enough for the inhabitants of the Hague. Nope. They also like to light fire to Christmas trees. Awesome idea. Let’s start fires everywhere, shall we? Nothing like coming home at 2 a.m. and finding your street on fire.
New Year’s Borrel. Now, this is an idea I can get behind. Borrel is a loose term used referring to a drinks gathering. It’s customary for companies to throw a New Year’s Borrel for their employees. Depending on the size of the company, this can range from an informal beer and chips gathering in the office to an extravagant party with DJs and presents. I’m okay with either. I’m not picky.
Best Wishes. It’s the tradition to wish friends, family, etc. best wishes the first time you see them in the new year even if this is several weeks after January 1st. I didn’t realize this was different until some one complained about it yesterday. Is it odd? *Shrugs* I kind of like the idea. (My Dutch husband informs me this habit is technically incorrect, but everyone does it anyway.)
New Year’s Dive. I realize diving into some frigid water is not unique to the Netherlands but thought I’d mention it anyway as it is a tradition. Each year at least 25,000 people plunge into the North Sea on New Year’s Day. What do they get for their efforts? A hat. It’s hat. That’s it. Okay, that’s being unfair. 1 euro of the entry fee (entry fee is 3 euros for those who want to join next year) goes to a good cause because not everyone has a happy new year. The donation went to the food bank this year. (Go here to support the food bank.)
Oliebollen. You can’t have any tradition in the Netherlands without involving food. You won’t hear me complaining about that. (My waistline is a different story.) Oliebollen is basically deep-fried dough topped with powdered sugar. Sometimes there are raisins. They go quite well with a glass of champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve. (That might be the champagne talking.)
What about your country? What New Years traditions do you enjoy?