Prepare to bring in 2015 with a bang!

If this is your first New Year’s celebration in the Netherlands, you may be in for a shock. As soon as midnight strikes, glasses will be raised, toasts will be made, and then the Dutch will run outside to spend the first two hours of 2015 lighting the skies with one of the most cacophonous and long-lasting fireworks displays you will ever see anywhere.

For a couple of hours, it seems the entire country puts its economic cares to one side as it enjoys the fabulous spectacle of millions of euros going up in spectacularly coloured and choreographed smoke.

The New Year firework displays continue a long tradition that goes back centuries, to a time when winters were long and unlit, and superstition abounded. Many believed that evil spirits were at their most dangerous when the nights were long, so people lit bonfires and made noises to ward off these malign influences.

Even now, in the much brighter nights of twenty-first century Holland, the Dutch more than any other European country illuminate their New Year with multi-coloured rockets and firecrackers and so-called “screaming kitchen-maids”.

Ironically, these days it’s the fireworks themselves that many have come to fear. Every New Year’s night, there are dozens of injuries and thousands of incidents of damage and vandalism due to the misuse of fireworks – not to mention the dense smog and sea of post-firework litter that take many hours and millions of euros to clear. So this year, local councils across the Netherlands have tightened the rules for fireworks on “Old and New” as it’s called here.

For instance fireworks may only be set off between 18:00 on the 31st December and 02:00 on the first of January, as opposed to 10:00 as was the case in previous years. Anyone caught lighting fireworks outside this period will be heavily fined. Moreover fireworks will only be sold from licenced firework retailers and only on three days: 29th, 30th and the 31st December.

And then there are the usual precautions that include blocking all letterboxes to dissuade people from hiding live fireworks in them. So whatever your New Year’s resolutions for 2015, don’t try and post a letter on the 1st January!

Redacteur Redactie

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