Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ringing in the New Year with a bang – literally

Nothing says Happy New Year in Germany like getting together to go drinking on the streets while lighting thousands of bottle rockets and other over-the-counter fireworks.

Getting a "light"

While we have this tradition in the United States (except drinking on the street as that's illegal in most cities), it in no way compares to what I’ve experienced in Germany. Both in a small town outside Stuttgart and in the heart of Munich, people pour outside, explosives in hand, ready to release their inner pyromaniac.

Lighting bottle rockets in the heart of the city
One possible reason for this "explosive" difference is that many U.S. cities don’t allow private fireworks for safety and fire reasons. (Note: most U.S. homes and small buildings are made from wood, not concert as they are in Germany.) Cities will often have an organized, professional fireworks display instead. And for most people, this is more appealing to watch than driving out to the boonies to light a couple of bottle rockets into a corn field.

But here, the flashes of light, loud BOOMs, screams of slightly-to-heavily intoxicated partiers and people running from fireworks lit too close for comfort, gives New Year’s Eve in Germany a dramatic, yet somewhat surreal atmosphere.

In fact, even as we ascended the stairs out of the U-Bahn station at Marienplatz, a few trigger-happy merrymakers couldn’t help lighting up a few. The combination of smoke, noise and light could have made for a perfect scene in a war movie. Here's a video I took just as we emerged:

Legend tells us we do to this because it was thought fire and noise would scare away malevolent spirits or demons. Maybe. Or maybe people just like blowing stuff up.

In any case, while it may or may not scare away petulant poltergeists, it does discourage people from wearing highly flammable, synthetic clothing. And as I did get stung slightly on the face from a stray ember, I realized it was for the best that I forgot to wear one of my brightly colored wigs that night...

Here's a short snippet of the night's "finale:"

 ...And the celebration's aftermath. It takes a few days for the city to recover.

The aftermath

1 comment:

  1. There was a guy at one point digging the sticks into the ground so they would explode in the planterbox instead of streaking into the sky. That was pretty freaky, but thankfully no issues.