Posts Tagged With: Fireworks

Frozen America (Or: For once I appreciate Dutch weather)

The current weather in The Hague is a balmy 13C. That’s about 55F. I will admit it is a bit windy though…

The current weather in the midwest where my parents are? –16F, feels like -41F with the windchill. (That is -27C, feels like -41C. – ironically -41 seem to be where Fahrenheit and Celsius meet.)

Just for fun, here’s a photo from New Year’s Eve in The Hague. Just something burning in the middle of the road. Note all of the red fireworks wrappings in the street.

New Years Eve destruction The Hague 2013

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Now with your pepperoni pizza… (Or: Fireworks!)

Yesterday Marco and I went to Roger’s for Christmas Eve. Much fun was had by all — Roger even got me a new game: Rack-o. I charged ahead for the first few games, but in the end Roger won by getting to 500 points first!

We also ordered some pizza. I was surprised to see a promotional flyer on the box – spend €25 and get a firework (vuurwerk) for free (worth €11.95). These Dutchies love their fireworks so much they even offer it with their pizza!

free fireworks with your pizza offer

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Ka-boom! (Or: Almost time for Dutch fireworks)

I received an email from the US embassy today. This is nothing special as I’m voluntarily on their mailing list. Usually I receive information about protests in the area and similar.

It must be that time of the year, because I received an email about fireworks safety today… Most of it would be useful information to the craziness that is that is Dutch fireworks culture, but some of it is amusing:

The Netherlands is known for its extensive use of fireworks in celebrating New Year’s Eve. Officially, fireworks can be lit between 1000 on Tuesday, December 31, 2013, to 0200 on Wednesday, January 1, 2014. The legal sale of fireworks (for those aged 16 years and older) starts on the morning of Friday, December 27, 2013. For those unfamiliar with this celebration, it can be quite distressing for young children and pets. Or adults, depending on where you go!

What will the police do to prevent these problems?

The Dutch police have zero tolerance for people using fireworks before or after the permitted times/dates. (In actuality fireworks will start going off a day or two before its legal.) Illegally purchased/ stored fireworks and all remaining fireworks in possession will be seized from any individuals or groups if caught before that date. Anyone under the age of 16 found possessing fireworks may be sent to HALT, the Dutch juvenile reform bureau, for mandatory awareness training.

Some trends you should be aware during the permitted firework time:

1. Groups throw fireworks indiscriminately on the street and in gardens. Quite true. You really have to be aware of your surroundings (perhaps this isn’t a big deal everywhere).
2. Fireworks are tossed fireworks in mailboxes, dumpsters, and garbage containers; causing damage to the owner’s property. I can see that, yes.
3. Fireworks are thrown at pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, and pets, and in mail slots. I’m not quite sure that it happens that often, but you do have some evil spirited folks out there. 
4. Fireworks may be launched from holes in street manhole covers. At first I read this and thought they meant that people go into the manhole covers and wait for people to come by, and then jump out and throw fireworks at them…
5. Stacking and setting fire to old Christmas trees at various (designated) locations on public streets. Generally the rule is that Christmas trees don’t get put out until a few days after New Year’s, for just this reason…
6. Possibility of increased criminal activity over New Year’s Eve, especially in areas frequented by large crowds.

When could problems occur?

In particular, right before and after New Year’s Eve; right after the sale of fireworks begins, and at locations where young people gather. Normally this is from dusk until after midnight.

What can you do to improve your safety?

Adults should always directly supervise children who are handling fireworks. Be alert and extremely cautious of fireworks lit in your direct vicinity. Beware of unexploded fireworks lying on the ground – consider such items as “live.” When lighting fireworks, remember they can explode sooner than expected, and can follow a different route than planned. Avoid wearing nylon or other flammable clothing and always use eye protection. Never keep lit fireworks in hands or pockets. In case of injury, call 112, or go immediately to the nearest hospital.

What can you do to prevent or minimize problems, damage or loss?

Inform your children that the police will inevitably be called in regarding any dealings involving illegal fireworks; i.e., possessing (illegal) fireworks or lighting fireworks before 1000 on Dec 31. Keep your windows, including transom windows closed and garbage containers out of reach. Empty your outside mailbox and if removable, bring the mailbox inside as soon as mail has been delivered. If you have a mail opening in your door, close it with wood or hard plastic (using screws or tape). Use your external light fixtures to illuminate your garden, and set timers to illuminate the interior of your unoccupied premises. Call 112 if you observe or hear people causing dangerous situations by throwing fireworks in your vicinity.

Really, the biggest thing is paying attention to your surroundings and what the people (including strangers) around you are doing. One time Marco and I walked a bit closer to a bonfire in the middle of the street. We saw someone throw something into the fire and we instantly bolted about 10 feet away. (It turned out to be nothing, but better safe than sorry. It really can get insane at times!)

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Fireworks and Music (Or: King Willem Alexander visits The Hague)

Of course, I still typed “Prince” in the title and had to change it to King. Willem Alexander and Maxima are currently visiting The Hague. I was able to see them as they traveled through Chinatown (which is at best a few streets at most). They then went on towards Grote Markt, where the city hall and library are. They were treated to some music in one of the plazas areas (the same one Marco and I went to a few weeks ago for Queen’s night).

Here are some pictures that I took as they were driven past. Luckily that area wasn’t as busy – I was only waiting around for about half hour and was able to get up front.

Chinatown demonstration for Willem Alexander

rehearsing before he arrives

fireworks for Willem Alexander in The Hague

Willem-Alexander has been spotted, so they light the fireworks…

Those little fireworks are amazingly loud. The first photo I took the explosions for the beginning of the fireworks were half that size. Above is the second photo. I couldn’t take anymore because after that everyone was too busy shielding their eyes and taking a few steps back – the explosions at the end were twice as big. Quite unexpected. I think my ears were ringing for at least 15 minutes…

firework remains in The Hague

Also a good picture for seeing the crowd behind, through the smoke. This was actually the calmer part of the route – the letter everyone got in the mail directed people towards Grote Markt street, which had much more spaces for folks (that was where the music was by the city hall).

Chinatown parade in The Hague for Willem Alexander

preparing for the King’s arrival – you can see the smoke from the fireworks

The blue sign in the upper right reads auto op slot, buit eruit! It means lock your car and take your valuables with you.

Willem Alexander and Maxima visit The Hague

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima (in red, not quite visible here)

It lasted all of about 30 seconds. Maybe 45 including the insane fireworks.

Dutch police on bikes after Willem Alexander

Dutch police – on bikes! (quite common – there’s a lot of places cars can’t go easily).

After that, that portion was over and the crowds quickly dispersed.

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Fifteenth day (Or: Blowing up the Netherlands again!)

Yay. Another New Year’s celebration at Roger’s place. First we had gourmetten (yummm – I highly recommend putting pineapple slices on the grill) and then we watched the Avengers movie which was a lot of fun. We finished about 10 minutes before midnight, and then rang in the New Year watching a music channel which had a clock and a countdown in the corner.

Here are some pictures that I took. Note as always that Netherlands is rather insane with its fireworks, but I always find it harder to get pictures of fireworks so I mostly focused on the things that were being burned…

"tidelijk buiten gebruik" - temporarily out of service. The black part is covering the slot where the mail usually goes, but the post office does not like people shoving lit fireworks into their post office boxes. Mail resumes tomorrow on the 2nd.

“tidelijk buiten gebruik” – temporarily out of service. The black part is covering the slot where the mail usually goes, as the post office does not like people shoving lit fireworks into them. Mail resumes tomorrow on the 2nd.

The police were happy that the weather was a bit less than stellar - you can see how windy it is here, plus it was also raining off and on.

The police were happy that the weather was a bit less than stellar – you can see how windy it is here, plus it was also raining off and on.

Some fireworks in the sky. As you can see, you can buy professionalish fireworks, although not really the largest type of firework.

Some fireworks in the sky. As you can see, you can buy professional-ish fireworks, although not really the largest type.

Random person setting off a firework (and someone one else with one in the background)

Random person setting off a firework (and someone else with one in the background)

Awesome burning bench. Most of the photos I took were of things burning, but I decided to tone it down for this blog post. ;)

Awesome burning bench. Most of the photos I took were of things burning, but I decided to tone it down for this blog post. ;p

Leftovers for the fireworks.  Just a small example of what the streets looked like. ;p

Leftovers. Just a small example of what the streets looked like in places.

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Fireworks (or: Blowing up a small piece of the country)

One of the cooler New Year’s Eve (oudejaarsavond, lit: old year’s eve) traditions is setting off fireworks at midnight. When I visited last year in December 2010, the Dutch spent about 65 million euros on fireworks (vuurwerk, singular and plural form). This year it was estimated to about 70 million euros.

part of the set of ground fireworks we purchased

The only way I could describe it in the part of the Hague I was visiting was loud, unexpected noises at every turn, huge flashes, and the need to be very, very careful.

Because there could be unexpected surprises around every turn…

a burning couch on a random street corner

Fun facts: the country’s entire public transportation system shuts down around 8PM that night to avoid issues. Mailbox openings are closed off to prevent “incidents” with lit vuurwerk being placed inside. Christmas trees used to be collected before New Year’s, but now residents are asked to keep their trees inside until after that date, because enterprising souls would take them and burn them on oudejaarsavond.

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