Traditional New Year’s Eve beach bonfires cancelled due to coronavirus

The Dutch tradition of huge bonfires on beaches in The Hague will not go ahead. Is it because of that time the bonfires turned into fire tornados? Nope — as always, the cancellations are due to coronavirus. 

The bonfires on the beaches of Scheveningen and Duindorp are a New Year’s tradition. However, the mayor of The Hague, Jan van Zanen, announced yesterday that he had no other choice but to cancel this year’s event.

Organisers have also scrapped bonfires in the Escamp and Laak districts.

Too popular to risk

Van Zanen had previously felt hopeful that declining coronavirus numbers would let him give the bonfire builders a green light.

However, with the decline stagnating and a strong likelihood that the partial lockdown will continue through mid-January, this year’s bonfires will not be lit.

“Suppose we would have had a relaxation at the last minute, then I did not think it was justified to allow it, because too many people would come to it,” explained Van Zanen to the NOS.

Kevin Batenburg, of the organizing foundation in Scheveningen, thinks it is a wise decision.

“If it could have gone through, we would have obtained a permit for a small audience. That would have been unenforceable for us with the alcohol that also plays a role in such a night,” he told the NOS.

No more fire tornados

The coronavirus crisis may be responsible for cancelling the 2020 event. However, the traditional bonfires would have looked different from the previous events anyway.

That’s because, in 2018, the bonfires went terribly wrong. Windy weather conditions blew ashes and embers from the 48 metre-tall bonfires onto the watching crowd.

Pure chaos reigned, the crowd was evacuated, and nearby bikes and cars were getting a little crispy.

READ MORE | The Big Bonfire Firestorm: so what really happened at Scheveningen on NYE?

The Dutch Safety Board wrote a report on the drama the following year. The report recommended that the municipality distance itself from the event, permits must be issued — and of course, the fires had to become safer (no more 48-metre tall monstrosities).

A torchlit procession replaced last year’s bonfires after the municipality refused to issue a permit for 2019.

Other Dutch New Year’s traditions have also come under heavy fire as of late. The Dutch cabinet recently announced that fireworks will be banned for 2020, following significant injuries, deaths, and annual mayhem.

Are you disappointed that this year’s NYE bonfire events are cancelled? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Emma Brown

Samantha Dixon
Sam isn’t great at being Dutch. Originally hailing from Australia, she came to study in the Netherlands without knowing where the country was on a map. She once accidentally ordered the entire ice-cream menu at Smullers. She still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike. But, she remains fascinated by the tiny land of tall people.


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