Happy New Year!


Firework’s rubbish. Happy New Year Amsterdam

Amsterdam celebrated with the usual random fireworks, it has a certain local charm to it but I wonder how long we’ll go on with the current anarchic ideal of everyone being smart enough to let of fireworks. Unlike pretty much every other city in the world we don’t do the single big show here, instead anyone can buy fireworks buy them and let them off.

In theory they’re supposed to be let off between 10am on the 31st of December and 2am on 1 January. In practice it starts earlier – I heard fireworks from the 28th of December and I can still hear them now. But even if the time limit was kept that’s sixteen hours of intermittent explosions everyone gets to listen to – it’s exhausting.

There is a movement to ban fireworks on the basis that they are;

  • dangerous, every year there are accidents with fireworks and the A&E departments are kept busy. Last year two people died as a result of fireworks accidents.
  • messy, the streets today are coloured red from the wrappers and littered with spent rocket cases
  • frightening for children and pets, one friend spent the night comforting a terrified 2 year old
  • risk of property damage

But there is resistance to the ban based on the fact that fireworks are;

  • traditional
  • fun

The tradition part is true – sort of. In centuries past royalty and nobility would use fireworks as part of their feasts, but it’s really only since the end of WW2 that Dutch individuals have been able to afford to buy fireworks in any great numbers (source).

The fun part is also true – sort of. I have great memories of my first years here seeing families sharing fireworks on the street, and of street parties to ring in the new year. It was a lot of fun. But the current high firepower explosion type of fireworks are not fun for most people.

To be fair many of the high firepower fireworks may be illegal – every year thousands of fireworks are smuggled over the border from Belgium where (apparently) the laws are less strict. The current restrictions are pretty much unenforceable.

When politicians have been challenged on banning fireworks the reponse is that for a ban to be effective it would need to be EU-wide. GroenLinks set up a complaints line, and had over 50,000 complaints by Monday morning. But other political parties do not see any reason to change the current legal situation.

When I first came her it was quite charming, families out with children letting off fireworks, everyone wishing each other “beste wensen” and strangers toasting each other with champagne. Yesterday was  constant explosions – banging noises from the morning, often very loud, frightening for pets and small children, and I honestly didn’t want to go and walk around the city.

The antics of a few have spoilt it for the majority – I’d support a enforced ban on fireworks and a more limited time when they could be set off. I’d also support an outright ban.

Alternatively put all the loud bang crazies into the Bijlmer Arena and let them set each other alight.

Meanwhile capital cities the world over organise fantastic fireworks displays for their inhabitants. Couldn’t we do that here?

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