This was my second New Year in the Netherlands. Last year was a shock, followed by the terror and misbelief that World War III had started. I thought that this time I would be better prepared for the unreasonable, unpredictable, and-- simply put-- ignorant, Dutch celebration. But this year Dutchies brought it to the next level. Paradoxically, as a result, two houses across the street from mine were lowered a level, due to the fully burned roofs.
I wonder what exactly it is about the sudden sound of bombs or rockets, which the whole (civilized) world fears, Dutchies find so attractive and inviting? Is it that the majority of them did not experience war? Maybe it’s because they have breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, dinner at 18h sharp, a secure job, and are bored out of their minds? Or perhaps they are cranky because their country is small but overpopulated, so they try to clear space. It does work, though. Stats show that, this year only, Dutchies spent €70 million on fireworks that killed two and injured more than 90 people, mostly bystanders (for more, see https://youtu.be/rGJseovT8ug).
Not surprisingly, this terror is also known as a Dutch “tradition”. Anyone familiar with the “Zwarte Piet” controversy knows that Dutchies have a loose interpretation of the word “tradition”. According to the Oxford dictionary, the word “tradition” primarily means: “The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation or the fact of being passed on in this way”. Well, following this logic, and Dutchies literal understanding of it, all sorts of sh*t can be called tradition (racism, nationalism, vandalism). You just need to have one idiot born before you to pass it on and voilà – you have a tradition now – being jerks! However, this apparently doesn’t always apply. Dutchies, for instance, used to sell people, which doesn’t come as a shock knowing how much they love money, but I am sure nobody would dare to call that a tradition. So, it seems that the function of the word “tradition” is to serve as a replacement for common sense. It can apply to benign tomato fights in Spain, but also to female mutilation in more than 30 African countries. Well, how convenient is that.
In any case, I will be spending the next New Year somewhere normal, where only alcoholism and unhealthy food are considered appropriate for the occasion.
Irena Boskovic, teacher and researcher at FPN