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EU > The Netherlands > Scheveningen

Fresh start

Scheveningen, NL (View on map)

A fresh start of the new year.. A few thousand Dutch people are taking that phrase literally. Today, on the first day of 2008, they gather for a collective dive into the North Sea. The summer beach resort of Scheveningen used to be the only official location for the New Year`s Dive. A number of alternative dives have been approved by sponsor Unox, but I selected the original Scheveningen one to ask people how they made it through the change of years.

Karlijn (22):

..dives into the North Sea on New Year`s Day to experience the we-feeling
New Year`s Eve or Saint Sylvestre are commonly referred to as Oud en Nieuw: Old and New. It`s the year`s ultimate moment for people to have their agenda full of options of where to go, whom to visit or which party to attend. The more options, the more popular people consider themselves. Many people choose not to celebrate Oud en Nieuw in pubs or bars, because these usually install or raise entrance prices for this event. A party with friends, relatives and/or acquaintance is the most probable choice for most people, even though organised events are starting to draw bigger audience every year.

Order of events
Old Year, as 31 December is referred to, is often a quite hectic day. Many an active house mother bakes oliebollen, raisin dumplings, people go shopping for a nice dinner and kids are terrorizing streets with fireworks. To those who are not familiar to the Dutch practice of lighting fireworks ? no restricted locations, just everywhere ? the change of years may seem an explosive inferno. Attention required for those who dare to walk the streets anywhere between the morning of 31 December and New Year`s Day.

Zillah (21) and Michiel (28) from Amsterdam spent their Oud en Nieuw in the Chinese neighbourhood of their home city. `The Chinese have the best ever fireworks, a lot of people come to Amsterdam just to see that`, says Zillah. They explain that most people organise small Oud en Nieuw parties at home or go to friends` places to start the new year in good company. A Dutch Oud en Nieuw is not complete without any oliebollen and champagne. On TV, the Oudejaarsconference, a long review of the year by one of the countries leading comedians, traditionally draws big numbers of viewers.

At 12 o?clock, people hit the street to light (even more) fireworks, decorating cities and turning them into war-like scenes of loud bangs and bright flashes. Parties continue after the fireworks have run out and many youngsters start the new year fully drunk and stuffed with food. Most parties last until the early morning hours. Marijke (21) and Hanneke (23) went to sleep at 4h30 in the morning but?

Getting up in the morning
Karlijn (22, photo) confirms that both water and air were very cold: `It`s a good new to start the year with an empty head. No, we didn`t sleep a lot, but we can do that later on.` Karlijn`s favourite part of the New Year`s Dive is the we-feeling. It`s such a big mass of people, all acting crazy together, just like people going to speed skating championships at the ice rink of Thialf. It`s just gezellig!`. The Holy Dutch Trinity of Leuk (fun, amusing), Lekker (tasty, enjoyable) and Gezellig (convivial, social) apparently also applies to the New Year`s Dive. In any way, a combination of these three attributes is a vital ingredient for any event to become a success. The New Year`s Dive is one such event, that moreover appeals to the Dutch preference for to act crazy when in groups. Individualism, but on the condition that some body joins in. Wearing orange clothes usually helps people act crazy, but other group costumes can be used as means to the same goal.

Marinus (28) and Ilse (20), two other participants in the New Year`s Dive, explain that they came well prepared. `Yes, the cold water is certainly painful in a way. It`s not the best thing to do when you have a hangover, which I learnt last year. So I drank a little less last night to make it here. It`s a learning curve.` The couple plan to join again next year and dress up like daisies.

Quiet New Year`s Day
Not everybody obviously gets to the beach to meet the elements. Sanne (26) tells about her habit of organising an Oliebollenontbijt, which consists of finishing the left-overs of Old Year: dough dumplings and champagne. She further explains: `Most people stay in bed until late, then get up to watch the TV news to see whether anything interesting or awful happened during the night. My parents watch the New Year`s concerts in Vienna and ski-jumping in Garmisch-Partenkirchen afterwards ? which is regular thing for people to do on New Year`s Day beside visiting family and friends to transmit Best wishes for the New Year.`

For Sanne and many others like her, New Year`s Day marks the start of a whole series of New Year`s borrels, events where people share a drink and salute the new year. At work, at the sports club, among friends.. With the eternal question remaining: until which day are people allowed and/or obliged to wish each other a happy new year?

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