Dutch Quirk #93: Hold giant bonfires on the beach for New Year’s Eve

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #93: Hold giant bonfires on the beach for New Year’s...

Considering Dutch people’s stereotypical laid-back, carefree attitude, it’s not very often that you’ll see them act a little crazy. But New Year’s Eve is one of the few moments where they really let loose. 🎊

Many people love a good party to ring in the New Year, but some might say the Dutch take their love for it a little too far. 

What is it?

Every year between December 26 and December 31, residents of The Hague build bonfires in the neighbourhoods of Scheveningen and Duindorp to see who can build the biggest one! Around midnight on New Year’s Eve, the bonfires are lit. 🔥

And each year gets crazier and crazier, with previous bonfires holding height records between 45 and 47 metres tall.🤯 The municipalities keep a height restriction of 35 metres, but the Dutch certainly don’t mind ignoring these rules — we suppose tall people love tall things.

READ MORE | Why are the Dutch so tall? Four possible answers

Why do they do it?

The beach bonfires originate from illegal Christmas tree burnings back in the 1950s and 60s. 🎄 After Christmas, Dutchies were eager to get rid of their trees, and younger people made a game out of it by hunting for as many Christmas trees in the neighbourhoods to burn. 

READ MORE | How Dutch people get rid of their Christmas trees

These fires grew bigger and bigger each year, and people were beginning to fight, steal, and vandalise trees from other people’s yards and homes — wait, what!? 

So the municipality of the Hague eventually banned these tree burnings, but not without another solution.

Why is it quirky? 

Ever since then, building these insanely tall (and still illegal) bonfires has become one of the most beloved traditions of the Dutch. 

This event is super gezellig in how it brings residents of all ages together to build these wooden skyscrapers in hopes of making them taller than the last.

New Year’s Eve really gets Dutch people worked up, but an especially chaotic bonfire incident on NYE 2018, shows the dangers of this tradition. 

Should you join in?

As long as you do it safely, ja zeker!

READ MORE | New Year’s Eve fireworks in the Netherlands: which city is doing what?

This Dutch tradition is truly unique and heart-warming (no pun intended 😉), so if you get a chance to go see the wooden skyscrapers being lit on New Year’s Eve, we encourage you to do so.

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in November 2021, and was fully updated in December 2022 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image: Emma Brown/Supplied
Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Third culture kid Katrien is a Philippine native living in the Netherlands to finish her master's degree in political communication. You can usually find her trying to organize everything on Notion and the sticky notes app, otherwise, she’s nose-deep in a good book or obsessing over film soundtracks and video games.

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