Wednesday, December 30, 2009


One annoying aspect of living in the Netherlands is that there seems to be a thousand ways to say everything. This is also true in English, but the Dutch seem to have assigned a specific meaning for each way of saying something that is absolutely specific to a situation, and to address something out of context is to render one's intentions useless. I'm exaggerating, of course. But consider the start of the new year/end of the old, for instance: this year oudejaar seems to be in vogue, whereas last year the term oudenieuw was bandied about with great relish. Literally, they mean "old year" and "old-and-new" (year), respectively. Oudejaarslot therefore means the closing of the old year--literally. Slot is some tense (possibly perfect?) of the verb sluiten, which means "to close".

But this time of year, like those elsewhere in the world, is reserved for eating lots of olliebollen, drinking lots of champagne, hanging around with lots of friends, and lighting lots of fireworks. Rotterdam has a major fireworks display, but for the most part mom-and-pop stores supply most of the whizz-bang for the transition between the years.

My boyfriend dedicates a good chunk of his savings to this. This year, he bought maybe 20 kg of explosives. If it seems excessive, consider that many people buy much more. He considers it as his one night of debauchery, as fireworks are illegal for the other 364 days of the year. This doesn't preclude the neighborhood kids from buying the small whizzer-bangers in the month before.

The turning of the year is a time to reflect, for me--what went wrong, what went right--and to make resolutions for next year. Thanks to the recession and the terrible state of economics, it's easy to get caught up in everything that's wrong with the world these days. But we should also make some time to be grateful for the little things and loves in our life that get us through the day, or that smile that awaits us when we get home.

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