Thursday, January 4, 2007

New Years In Germany


Where I am from, fireworks are strictly controlled. People buy them to shoot off on July 4th, but they are rather tame and mild. The "big stuff" is usually something which the average person can't get, or if you do it is because you went across state lines and got them illegally. Every year in the news you hear about someone getting hurt or starting a fire. Pictures of little kids with only 3 fingers comes to mind when I think about fireworks. Actually the controls seem to make sense when you think about it that way. So it comes as something of a shock to find large volumes of highly professional fireworks are set off by people of all ages in Germany over the New Year's holiday.

The celebration is marked with the brash banging of fireworks, drinking and cheering very much like our American 4th of July. But I was blown away (forgive me) by the lackadaisical attitudes to masses of fireworks set off anywhere-in quiet apartment communities, busy streets, city squares and parks- and aimed in any direction with apparently no thought to what might happen to someone else.

December 30th I was walking in my neighborhood noticing an occasional BANG, BANG. Soon I saw the source, two boys of about 16 were riding along on bikes (you know the kind, black hoodies, black pants too long and exposing their underwear, with the bikes that look like they are sized for a 6 year old which forces the big kids to fold over with their knees hitting their chins) who were using the cigarette dangling out of their mouths to light an explosive which they carelessly tossed under any car they were passing.

The day after is absolute madness as well. There are entire areas which are strewn with the red paper and brown debris of the party. Since New Years it has rained and the brown leftovers turned into something resembling dog shit. The city actually works very hard to get it all cleaned up very quickly, but a person still sees the remnants of the night everywhere.

No matter how much I am in awe at this craziness, there is nothing to describe what happens at midnight. All throughout the day there are random popping sounds and shooting of rockets which is much like the 4th… but at midnight there is a HUGE combustion of bangs, pops, and beautiful lights. I have NEVER seen anything like this in America. During the 4th it is a random scattering of fireworks. But imagine the whole city is lit up simultaneously with pyrotechnics! It is a sight to behold!

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