I didn’t have a chance to post this on January 1, so here it is now, just a bit late.
Kim here, reporting live from Holland on the Dutch New Year’s Eve festivities.
First off, let’s get our terms straight. The Dutch refer to it as “Old Year’s Eve.” It doesn’t make sense grammatically to me, but hey, I’m not Dutch, either. (My husband disputes this. He says “eve” refers to the last evening of something; I say it refers to the eve before something. I think we’re both right in our respective first languages.)
Now, let’s compare. In America, our traditional New Year’s Eve celebration might include attending a party, gathering with friends to play games until midnight, or staying at home watching the New Year’s Eve shows from New York until the ball drops in Times Square.
Here’s how it went down at my in-law’s house. We ate dinner as usual. Then, around 8:30, by brother- and sister-in-law dropped by with their three kids. The kids set to work coloring, stickering and playing with the big bucket of activities their step-grandmother set out for them. The adults sat in the living room and chatting and drinking coffee. Periodically through the evening, my father-in-law’s wife brought out various things to snack on. The traditional “oliebollen,” were there, too. (Not sure if I got that spelling right). Oliebollen are baseball-sized fried dough balls, similar to a doughnut, but not as sweet. They are stuffed with raisins and usually sprinkled with powdered sugar. About 11 p.m., my sister-in-law brought out some seasoned dried meat — a specialty from her town of Marknese.
Basically all we did was eat.
We could tell that the clock had hit midnight when outside exploded with a cacophony of fireworks from all directions. The adults stood and greeted one another with kisses (three), hand shaking and saying, “gelukkig nieuw jaar” — happy new year.
Then we woke the two youngest children who had fallen asleep and rushed outside. The skies were alight with 4th of July style fireworks in red, blue, green and white. A barrage of bangs and cracks echoed off the houses, and an occasional blast from a home-made bomb made me jump. There were several milk can bazookas set up around town, and we could hear the booms sounding periodically.
The neighbors were all out on the streets, too, setting off fireworks and holding sparklers. Anyone who passed by stooped to greet us with more handshakes and “gelukkig nieuw jaars.” My brother-in-law lit his own display of Chinese fireworks. The kids got scared and went inside with their step grandmother, while the adults continued standing in the freezing cold watching the fireworks overhead that seemed endless. Every corner of the visible sky had it’s own show ongoing. Every time I thought one of the displays was finishing, after a pause for the amateur pyrotechnic to reload, the bright bursts would continue.
At last, our unknown entertainers ran out of firepower, and the clamor petered out. My toes were freezing and my teeth were chattering. My brother-in-law picked up his spent bits of paper and cardboard from the street and we headed inside to bundle up the children and wave them home. It was 2011 in Holland.