I kicked off the 1st with what was a first for me. Despite living in The Netherlands for 17 years, this was the first New Year’s Eve I’ve spent here. Notoriously riotous, people who have experienced New Year’s in The Netherlands liken it to a war zone. The locals become virtual pyromaniacs, disregarding the law allowing fireworks to be legally set off from 10am on December 31st to 2am on January 1st, and starting days earlier, and going until days after, the designated time.
I joined friends at midnight on the beach in Scheveningen to ring in the New Year with fireworks, and bonfire. This wasn’t just any old beach bonfire, mind you, but a legendary one. For several days leading up to New Year’s Eve, wooden pallets towers are built in preparation for the bonfire battle waged between Duindorp and Zuiderstrand.
Witnessing all of this, my thoughts were, “Wow! This is CRAY!” With fireworks being set off by any and everybody – most notably reckless kids – and two really tall wooden towers set ablaze, it seemed like a very bad accident waiting to happen. However, with only “45,000 kilos of illegal fireworks seized, 2,000 arrests, 12 people admitted to the eye hospital in Rotterdam and 1 death” the Dutch authorities report that it was a “relatively peaceful” New Year’s Eve.
While it was a hot time in the old town the night before, things cooled down considerably on New Year’s Day, as thousands dived into the ice cold waters of the North Sea for the annual Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year’s dive). There are more than 60 locations where this daring dive takes place, with the largest occurring in Scheveningen with more than 10,000 participants (and no, that was not one of my “firsts” for 2016).
The Nieuwjaarsduik started in 1960, and became a national tradition several years later when soup brand Unox became the sponsor. The dive costs only a couple of Euro, and participants in Scheveningen receive a Unox cap, a souvenir pennant and the ‘Terugblik’ special edition of the Unox Erwtensoep (split pea soup), one of the Netherlands’ signature dishes, in a tin.
Where did you welcome the New Year?