I spent NYE 2013 in Holland and heard “Gelukkig Nieuwjaar” more times than I can even begin to count. Including the standard three kisses too! By the end of the night I had whiplash from all the kissing and a frog in my throat from all the guttural “g’s”! In English we call December 31st New Years Eve, it is the Eve of the New Year and to me that makes sense. The Dutch refer to it as Oudjaarsdag or Oudjaarsavond, “Old Year’s Day” or “Old Year’s Evening” respectively because it is the night of the old year, which I have to admit makes sense too.
New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands just like everywhere else in the world stands for parties and fireworks. Traditionally, the Dutch will visit family and friends, eat oliebollen (doughnut balls), pop a bottle of Champagne at midnight and watch the firework. That’s what I did last year anyway. The Dutch have a more personal approach rather than a grand social affair. Post the midnight hour when the fireworks begin is when the night becomes more social.
On the last day of the year, constant fireworks can be heard and seen everywhere in Holland, in the streets, in the gardens etc and at midnight a firework spectacle is unleashed and literally lights up the entire country. People go out into the streets to set off fireworks or to watch the show put on by others. It is a big event just like it is all over the world. Here is a brilliant video and article about the Dutch obsession with fireworks.
Last year when I was there I was amazed at how many children where setting fireworks off ALL day! Just randomly in the streets I saw young, probably 10-14 year olds setting of firecrackers and rockets. I didn’t think I would need to talk about the dangers of fireworks but the children of the Netherlands have clearly not see or heard all of the warnings that are forced upon us in the UK. I’m that much of a chicken when it comes to these kinds of things I wont even consider holding a sparkler without gloves on! If I had to set fireworks off I’d never see the pretty sparkles ever again. Dutch TV still shows the London shot of Big Ben too (an hour later obviously). So technically I saw in the New Year twice! Last year was the first year I’ve spent NYE away from my family and in a different country. Luckily for me my Dutch clan are just as much my family as those biologically linked to me and the Dutch are so welcoming anyway, who wouldn’t want an English girl at their party?!
A typical Dutch tradition is the so-called ‘New Year’s Dive’ on New Year’s Day: this involves people diving into the icy cold sea! Dives are organised all over the country but the most famous dive is the one in Scheveningen, which attracts fools from all over the world. More people get involved every year, I heard that the total for last year was nearly 10,000. I’ve been to Scheveningen in the summer and the water is a little chilly, I wouldn’t fancy going in January 1st!
What are your plans for welcoming in 2015 this year? I’m hoping for a quiet one. I am a firm believer in the idea that “how you spend new years eve is how you spend the rest of the year”. I don’t know why and I can’t really justify this with anything other than coincidence, but in the words of Sherlock Homes: ” The Universe is rarely so lazy”. I like to mark the event by doing something but after a frankly sh*t 2014 this year I’m pretty sure I’d be happy to settle for a night in with a movie and a bottle of bubbles. This decision has been made easier by having no plans for this year too. Everyone is having a quiet one from what I’ve seen. I’m hopeful for 2015.