New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands in 2019: fireworks, riots, and general madness

New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands: a time for calm reflection, having a cozy party with friends, or setting your street on fire. Whichever you prefer goes in the Netherlands. New Year’s Eve has been a night of mayhem, vandalism, and arson historically, and the government has taken steps to change this. But it’s not yet clear whether these steps will change things at all, so here are our predictions for New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands in 2019. 

Generally, the Netherlands is a pretty calm and orderly society, save a couple of wild tourists. Our prisons are emptying out at a good rate and even our ugly places are still incredibly clean. But there’s one night and day when the Dutch lose it and just go crazy, and not in a fun way like with King’s Day, but more in a warzone kind of way.

I’m talking about New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands, or as we Dutch say it: ‘Oud en Nieuw’.

So what are the things that make New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands dangerous?

New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands: Fireworks for all

I’m not talking about general-nicely-organized fireworks shows (although we do see these more, like in Rotterdam). In the run-up to NYE loads of Dutch kids and grown men flood to all kinds of shady websites to purchase massive loads of (il-)legal fireworks. This year it was revealed that these illegal fireworks were coming through drug trafficking channels. While the idea behind the firework tradition is that people set off fireworks for roughly an hour at midnight- it doesn’t really work like that.

For a period of more or less 36 hours, the Netherlands is transformed into a war zone which results in hundreds of missing eyes, scared-to-death pets and extensive debate about banning this tradition (how very Dutch).

NYE in the Netherlands: Fireworks combined with drinking

On the surface it might be all Oliebollen and ‘gezelligheid’, but we all know better. Just like King’s Day ‘Oud & Nieuw’ is a day where it’s more tolerated by other people to get madly drunk beyond reason. Or otherwise stashing up on that other ‘powder sugar’.

Not this kind of powdered sugar. Image: MarjonBesteman/Pixabay

This crazy situation only gets worse the next day, as it’s generally a day off from work for most people, so they can continue to roam the streets in drunken hoards. With fireworks. And oliebollen.

New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands: No bonfires allowed, but there will probably still be bonfires

The tradition of setting fires on New Year’s Eve is, firstly, very weird, but secondly pretty dangerous, as we found out last year when the massive Scheveningen bonfire collapsed. This year, stricter regulations have meant that most municipalities cannot afford to have a bonfire. This news was met with anger from people who love the tradition, and riots ensued in Duindorp last weekend. It’s likely that there will be unofficial bonfires this year, so the regulations may not have their desired effect.

New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands: General Mayhem

In the big Dutch cities and certain villages (Veen for example) there’s just a feeling of hooliganism going around. Big groups of dumb men (sometimes surprisingly old) huddle around a big ass car fire and before you know it they’re throwing fireworks at the firefighters who are just doing their job. At some places the new year’s eve in the Netherlands is so shitty that it has even led to a warning by the US state department.

Are there any CALM traditions on New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands?

Oliebollen are available in the Netherlands from November onwards each year, but they are traditionally supposed to be eaten as the clock strikes midnight. Now there’s a nice (if slightly unhealthy) tradition for you. And of course, most people don’t spend New Year’s Eve on the streets: chill parties with friends are far more common. And, the next day, Dutchies go for a New Year’s Dive in the icy water- what better way is there to sober up and get ready for another year of biking, rain, and stroopwafels?

What are your New Year’s Eve traditions? Let us know in the comments below. 

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 31 December 2016 but was updated on 10 December 2019 for your reading pleasure. 

Feature image: Pexels/Pixabay 

Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱
Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱
Abuzer founded DutchReview a decade ago because he thought expats needed it and wanted to make amends for the Dutch cuisine. He has a Masters in Political Science and IT but somewhere always wanted to study history or good old football. He also a mortgage in the Netherlands and will happily tell you too how to get one. Born and raised in Rotterdam, Abuzer now lives in Leiden but is always longing back to his own international year in Italy.
  1. You forgot about “carbid schieten”. In a lot of places they use an old milk can and put in calcium carbide, and water. This will generate gas which is highly flammable. If you trap it by putting the lid or a ball on the milk can, you can get a big explosion by lighting it through a small hole. It might be even more dangerous, but it is a tradition and it is really enjoyable! You should try it at least once.
    It also works with a Pringles can.

  2. It seemed crazy to me, coming from New York, this idea of fireworks for all. “Aren’t they dangerous?” I asked my friends…to shrugs. The cacaphony started humming around 2pm…building in intensity after dark, to the big moment of wisseling, midnight. The display in Utrecht was phenomenal, 360 degrees around on a clear night with a full-ish moon for over an hour. We watched from near our house by the Merwedekanaal, where the light reflected twofold. I felt a bit bad for the ducks and coots, cowering in the greens, but not so bad for our resident chorus of honking geese, who took off for a day to the countryside.

  3. Only been here a few months. If we had known about this before we came we would never have moved here. It was horrific. has been building gradually throughout December, day and night. Has been bad for 3 days and obviously the 12 hours or so yesterday afternoon/last night. There were gangs of tens in the street throwing the fireworks at houses. The air was thick with the toxins. Our pets were terrified as were the poor creatures in the nearby nature park. Shocked and appalled.


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