Dutch Language Blog

Vuurwerk! – Dutch fireworks Posted by on Dec 30, 2013 in Culture, Dutch Vocabulary

Generally, Dutch people are very fond of vuurwerk (fireworks). In the Netherlands, they love them around this time of the year. Back in the days, it was believed that the noise and flashes of fireworks would scare away the evil spirits that would bring misery in the new year. Nowadays, the only misery in the new year comes with the gigantic amount of money that people lack due to what they spent on fireworks. Around 70 million Euros are spent by the Dutch each year on vuurwerk. From the 28th of December, all kinds of vuurwerk can be bought by individuals. Vuurpijlen (skyrockets) and rotjes (firecrackers) are the most popular. They may only be ignited on the 31st of December from 10 AM until 2 AM, January 1st. However, often people already blow up some things before that. And still, every year at midnight, everybody wishes happy new year, drinks a sip of sparkling wine and then goes outside to see what prachtig vuurwerk (beautiful fireworks) is shot in the sky.

Since in the Netherlands, it can be quite expensive, many Dutch people cross the border and buy their fireworks in Germany. It is legal, and a lot cheaper. At least that is what they think, and I believe it is right. I live right on the border, so I see many gele nummerborden (Dutch car tags) here in Germany. Normally, they are white. The Dutch have the yellow ones. That is why gele nummerborden are often an indication that Dutch people are around. And the only days they can buy fireworks were Saturday, the 28th, and today, the 30th of December. And maybe tomorrow still, but then everybody is busy blowing up the things they bought.


However, no matter how beautiful these fireworks are, they are dangerous too, and can cause serious damage. In 2000, in the Dutch city Enschede, a fireworks factory blew up due to  a fire. A huge explosion wiped away a complete neighborhood. 950 people were wounded, 23 people died. This incident is known as the vuurwerkramp (fireworks disaster). Of course, tons of fireworks exploded at the same time here, but it shows that it can be very dangerous. Every year, more and more fireworks are imported from eastern Europe illegally. On the one hand, the mail distribution centers want to check on such fireworks, but they are not allowed to due to the briefgeheim (secrecy of correspondence). Now and then, checks with trained dogs are conducted to find such illegal fireworks.

There would not be a problem if all those fireworks were safe. The amount of buskruit (gunpowder) in the fireworks has increased in the last years. The leger (army) has expressed its concern, because the detonation power of these fireworks was partially equal to that of their hand grenades. Furthermore, the way of detonation of these bombs might not be safe – since they are illegal, security standards might not have been respected.

Then why?

But even with legal fireworks, bad accidents can happen. Every year, people get seriously injured because of bad use of fireworks. But where is the fun, when there is no risk, right? Vuurwerk is comparable to gun use in the United States. People know they are dangerous and even lethal when used in the wrong way. However, as long as safety is the number one priority, nothing much can happen. Vuurwerk works the same way, and fortunately the majority of people knows that. This way, it can be beautiful to look at, and a lot of fun!

Beste wensen en gelukkig nieuwjaar, allemaal! (Best wishes and happy new year, everyone!)


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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.