Our Expat Perspective: NYE in the NL

by farrah on December 31, 2013 · 9 comments

The noisemakers started going off the day after Christmas. I remember thinking- oh man, here we go! At least this year we know what to expect. Last year the insane amount of explosions were utterly confusing and I kept waiting for them to stop. Well, they really didn’t. The fireworks get going in the morning on the 31st (but we’ve been hearing them for days prior) and go all day, into the night, and peter out by morning. It sounds like a military zone under fire and that is not an exaggeration.

The video is from last year, about 1:30am outside our bedroom window. By that point we were laughing as it was as if it would never end. These are only from the people who live behind us, so you can imagine what it is like elsewhere!

Yesterday I was thrilled to see an article from a blogger friend Amanda from Expat Life With A Double Buggy. In 2009, she wrote an article for Expatica.com explaining a little bit of the history of New Years’ fireworks in the Netherlands. This helped.

Fireworks at New Year are a long-standing Dutch tradition, and signify chasing the spirits of the old year away. 
Similarly, the custom of the vreugdevuur, (usually fueled by burning Christmas trees) is a symbol of purging the old for the new. 
However, many Dutch are considering the evolution of New Year’s Eve activities and questioning whether the fires and fireworks now have any real ties to the traditions of old…According to an investigation undertaken by the Police Academy in 2007, it has become ingrained into Dutch culture that at New Year, anything goes. The report concluded that the Netherlands has a fundamental problem with violence and vandalism at this time of year.

Fun, right? Hey, I used to count Detroit as my playground. Sounds a little like Devil’s Night to me- but not nearly as bad.

My husband told me yesterday that he heard at work people talking about spending €1000 on their fireworks. I understand that this is like their 4th of July and all- but man. That’s a LOT of fireworks. And these are not just your itty bitty spraying fountains and sparklers I’m talking about. Last year I actually worried that something would hit the house. I remember at one point I saw a flaming lantern just glide over the roof and thought that cannot be safe. I thought South Carolina had impressive neighborhood displays on the 4th- but that is NOTHING like this. Here- it feels completely ‘anything goes’ and you hope no one burns down your house.


We’ll be up tonight watching again from our bedroom window until the wee hours of the morning (they really are impressive). Some people I talked to locally say that they flee for the night and head out to a more rural area. Had we planned better we might have done that–but then again, where’s the fun in that? This might be our last NYE in the NL and we want to be a part of it. We even bought our own fireworks this year too.

The boys slept through the entire thing last year (crazy) and this year we promised them a sleepover in the twins’ room with the white noise machine blasting to drown it out. I’m really glad our old friend Henry (the dog) isn’t here. He’d have a heart attack.

So hopefully we shall sit back and pop delicious oliebollen today under the cacophony of explosions. I’m not sure what people typically cook for dinner so I’m just making a tomato soup from a Dutch recipe and hoping for the best.

Six hours ahead of my friends on eastern standard time, we’ll be in a new year. Happy 2014 my friends! Or, as they say it over here: Gelukkig Nieuwjaar & De beste wensen voor 2014!

What’s the celebration like where you are?

Thanks to my Twitter friend @Gert75 for assisting me yet again on translation.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gert December 31, 2013 at 8:33 am

Thx for the mention!

And as for dinner: anything goes! Most people visit friends and family and most of the evening people eat oliebollen, little snacks, soup, baquettes etc.


2 farrah December 31, 2013 at 8:34 am

I am not kidding- just as your comment came through one went off outside the window so loud it shook the house! The boys came running lol.


3 Jennifer F- American Mom in Bordeaux December 31, 2013 at 10:28 am

Happy New Year’s 2014 to you and your family – or as we say in France – Bonne Annee 2014! Our New Year’s Eve is a big dinner/feast with friends at out home. This year is relatively small with another couple and my mother – other years it’s been up to 12 people. We feed the kids first and then we enjoy adult time around the table and feast of lots of food and wine!! We ring in the New Year at midnight with champagne. My older girls will probably stay up and celebrate with us with sparkling grape juice. (Some years our guests have had kids who come too – but this year it didn’t work out that way..Enjoy your celebration and Happy New Year!!


4 farrah December 31, 2013 at 11:04 am

That sounds like a lot of fun Jennifer! I stayed up late drinking that as a kid too- nothing better than sparkling juice!


5 Gayla December 31, 2013 at 10:30 am

It’s the same in Venlo and I think the biggies from the fireworks arsenal are purchased across the border in Belgium. The echo of exploding rockets bouncing off the buildings in our neighborhood is deafening. One year our upstairs neighbors were firing them from the apartment balcony. Needless to say, we, the other neighbors who had furniture damage as a result, and the HOA (VVE) were not happy. Here’s hoping that this year’s show is damage-free. We’ll be watching, cause it is beautiful. Happy New Year!!


6 farrah December 31, 2013 at 11:05 am

YES- the echo is pretty nuts. With all of the (brick) homes so close together- that absolutely happens. And here I grew up thinking fireworks were only to be done in wide open spaces, away from buildings- after the grass had been hosed down!


7 Amanda January 3, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Thanks for the mention 🙂 We were away for nye this year – and thank god. A firework bomb was exploded in my street with damage to 6 houses. Insane. Scary. A culture I will never get used to as long as I live in NL.


8 Julia January 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm

That is crazy our neighbors go a little over board with the fireworks on NYE but nothing like that.


9 Mrs. Chasing the Donkey January 6, 2014 at 3:17 pm

The Croats love those damn fire balls as much as the Dutch. The good things is that they are banned after Jan 2. So on Jan 1 it was like a war zone with them going off all day and night. Now we are back to the peace and quiet – phew!


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