Beste Wensen! Happy New Year!
Last night at midnight I was standing on a bridge in subzero temperatures.
The bridge crosses Prinsengracht, where it meets Brouwersgracht, from here we could look down canals in four directions. As the churches, Noorderkerk and Westerkerk began to strike 12 everyone in Amsterdam let off fireworks, we turned from one direction to the other as coloured explosions lit the sky behind the house gables. Someone let off a mega string of ‘double happy’ firecrackers.
This is how the Dutch, normally rather restrained about spending money for nothing, celebrate “Oudjaar” or New Years Eve. The fireworks go off for about two hours, while everyone drinks champagne, wishing each other “Beste Wensen” and exchanging kisses.
One couple got a little carried away with exchanging kisses, just as a police car tried to cross the bridge. With a whoop from the siren they jumped apart and stepped to the footpath, as the police car passed they called over the loud speaker “Happy New Year”.
Happy New Year indeed, we started in a good way!