Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Traditions: Fireworks

On about December 27 each year, it becomes legal to buy and sell fireworks the The Netherlands. This goes on until December 31. The purpose of the fireworks is so that at midnight, everyone can shoot fireworks off. The downside is that for about four days, there are fireworks going off here and there. There's a whistle and a pop here, a crack there. I find it a little unnerving. Firecrackers on a normally quiet street, sound like gunfire.

Fred and I were walking down the street on Saturday when when three kids (around nine-years-old were running down the sidewalk, stopping, lighting fire crackers, laughing and running a little further. One tried to say something to me - asking for a match? - I waved him off. Then I pictured him shooting a bottle rocket at my back. But who can aim one of those things that well? Certainly not a kid. You never hear about people losing a hand or getting hurt, but I'm sure it happens. It would have to, wouldn't it?

The entire evening of Oudejaar (Old Year - i.e. New Year's Eve) there were fireworks going off. After I adjusted myself to it, it was just background noise. Then a few minutes before midnight, it really took off. It went on for almost 45 minutes. I was amazed. I took a couple of snaps, but the time delay on my camera when there is not enough light is embarassingly long, so I got a handful. It's amazing to me that it was on every side - out the front and out the back. Big ones, small annoying ones. They did them on the square in front of the apartment. There were people doing a Roman candle out of the fifth floor window. We're up so high that some of them did their thing right in front of where we were standing, which was interesting.

The downside of the whole thing is that the streets are a mess when it's over. Red paper, little sticks, plastic nobs, gunpowder residue everywhere. I lost points on an integration test the other day (on t.v., so it didn't really count) because when the question was asked: What does the average Dutch person do with the trash created from his fireworks on New Year's Eve? I answered, "Leave it and walk away." The correct answer was: "Clean it up." If that happens, it's not in Amsterdam.

Of course there are still fireworks going off today. But they'll eventually be all used up and I can go back to living like I live in a fairly serene European city.

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