It’s still getting light late in Holland on New Year’s Eve 2015. So that’s a good reason to sleep in. We breakfast with my godparents and then set off for a walk with my godfather. He takes us on his usual route of about 1.5 hours around Coevorden.
It’s perfect weather for exploring on foot. Cool enough for a jacket but not so cold that you feel it. We follow my uncle as he tells us about the local landmarks, including this cool circle of wooden poles on a small mound (we joke that the mound is a mountain by Dutch standards). It’s fun to spend time with my godfather. I haven’t seen him in five years and since that time he’s had a stroke. But we are all lucky that he’s recovering well and can spend time with us.
After our walk my godfather heads to my cousin’s house for the start of the New year’s Eve festivities while Paul and I set off on yet another walk through the village. It’s a small place but we manage to spend almost two hours exploring random sights, like the moss on this wall that we spent about 20 minutes photographing.
We also admire the many “hair houses” that line the streets. These two are for sale if anyone is interested.
And we make our way into the church garden Paul wants to take photos of the windows while I check out the garden ornaments. Dutch gardens are so orderly and pretty, just like the houses. I quite like it but could’t live here because I’d be the neighbourhood disgrace.
The sight of the queue at the ollibollen van sends us back home to prepare for the festivities. My cousin’s wife is making olliebollen at their house and it’s getting into the early evening now. We didn’t want to arrive too early because it might be awkward with them spending time with friends and then having foreign family over. But by now it’s reaching the point where we should probably go.
The party that follows will go down as one of the best New Year’s Eve experiences ever! We went to watch a Drente tradition of carbite shooting. This is a kind of home-made cannon that you load with carbide dipped in water. You put a lid on the cannon (these were made with milking cans) and put your hands over the air vents at the back of the cannon. This lets the gas inside build up. Then you step back while someone else takes a flaming stick and puts it near the holes. The cannon then fires with a satisfying kaboom. My cousin’s wife’s father organised for me to have a turn firing the cannon. Best fun with your clothes on. The cannon was so loud it resonated in my chest despite the ear mufflers.
But the best was yet to come. After a night of relaxation and far too much food, the clock struck midnight and the streets came alive with the sound and sight of fireworks. These were not just little fire crackers some children let off. This was a full scale production at every house in the town. Everywhere we looked the sky was alight with sparkles and colour. And all around the streets were awash with the laughter, oohs and ahs of people watching the home made show. We’d had previews all day with kids letting off crackers but now the main event was taking place. The streets glowed orange from everyone’s independent efforts at celebrating the coming of 2016. This is something I will never forget – an experience shared with family and Paul.