the Bonfire

So here we are, in the dreary mid January days. I’m always sad to see our tree go, but it was high time.
Where we live, the council pays 50 euro-cents for every Christmas tree we bring to the bonfire, so it is a great way for kids to supplement their pocket money. My son is a young teenager now and does not feel like going up and down with trees attached to his bike all day for a couple of euros, but my daughter is still very enthusiastic. So our small backyard was littered with sad old Christmas trees. Not in the least because she gets to see the big fire for herself as well. It is all very well supervised by the fire department but still, it is awesome to watch.

Burning trees around Midwinter is an ancient Germanic custom. In other areas of the Netherlands it is done on New Years day, often without the permission of the authorities. A far more recent addition to this custom is the rowdy New Year’s lighting of fireworks. Although I’m not a huge fan of fireworks myself, it does create a very special atmosphere and makes a Dutch New Years Eve quite extraordinary.

Fire is an ambiguous force in nature, dangerous and indispensable in our chilly climate at the same time. It is a power that cannot be harnessed easily. Witnessing the large pile of trees going up in flames always makes me a bit melancholy. On the other hand, it signals a clear end to the languid, opulent days of the festive seasons. It is a sobering reminder that all good things come to an end. From the ashes, we have to create a new year from scratch.

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