Netherlands: New Year's Eve beach bonfires banned
The Hague has banned traditional New Year's Eve bonfires on the beach after a disaster was only narrowly avoided last year. The combination of a pile of pallets that was too high, strong westerly winds and a rain of sparks set cars and even houses on fire. Residents in the affected neighbourhoods of Duindorp and Schevenigen have reacted to the ban with anger and sporadic rioting. Why?
The wild energy of the irrational
Banning the bonfire is nothing short of a sacrilege for the citizens of Duindorps, NRC Handelsblad columnist Christiaan Weijts explains:
“We want to campaign for something that transcends our individual lives - a brand, a god, a club, a family - and we concentrate all our forces on this symbol. In Duindorp the celebratory bonfire stood for all kinds of identities and was therefore on the same level as a religion. Fathers taught their sons how to build bonfires. Deceased neighbours were paid tribute to with portraits on large canvases placed next to the bonfire. The irrational aspect of the entire project was its great energy.”
Make New Year's Eve once more a treat for all
Politicians have been inactive for far too long when it comes to New Year's Eve customs, says De Volkskrant:
“The Hague must accept the bitter consequence of the fact that for too long a ritual was tolerated even though it had been clear for years that it was associated with high risks when strong winds were blowing from the sea. This should not be the end of the story: perhaps the time has come to regulate all New Year's Eve festivities, not just in The Hague but all over the Netherlands. Because there is hardly anywhere left where the turn of the year is still a festive occasion for everyone.”