Here’s the thing about New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam: either you love it or you hate it.
Me? I loved it.
Leading up to New Year’s Eve, the Amsterdam expat community was writhing with grumblings and groanings. “It’s a war zone!” I was warned. “The worst night of the year!” Many other families were “desperate to leave the city” and “head to the woods” (no, seriously) to escape the “holiday I hate most.”
Then again,”epic” and “awesome” are also a few words I’ve seen thrown about to describe New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam. But I think this is mostly from single/childless people who can actually go out and party on New Year’s Eve, instead of having to stay home and defend offspring, pets, and property.
You see, the Netherlands is one of the few places in the developed world where fireworks are a public free-for-all during New Year’s Eve. This is the only time of the year that buying and setting off fireworks is allowed. And the Dutch love their fireworks.
Therefore, I gathered that it would most likely be very similar to… New Year’s Eve in Manila. Ergo: no biggie.
On New Year’s Eve, Marlon and I moved up our traditional Media Noche (midnight meal) to sit down to an early dinner with Tala. Our spread was modest compared to our Noche Buena: fresh lobster with truffle butter, angel hair pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic, and seared scallops topped with diced Granny Smith apples and jamon iberico. Coincidentally, everything fell into the Paul family tradition of having red and/or round foods on the New Year table, even if we didn’t plan it that way!
After putting Tala to bed, Marlon and I curled up on the couch to watch The Danish Girl starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, my new #girlcrush. I loved the movie, by the way. I’m now slightly obsessed with finding a vintage kimono to swan about in while working at home, in the style of Alicia’s character Gerda.
While watching, we snacked on raw oysters from the market, smoked cheese with gelatina di Chianti, a.k.a. Chianti jam, and hot chocolate milk spiked with bourbon. We also adopted a Dutch New Year’s tradition and had oliebollen, which literally means “oil ball”—big, fat deep-fried balls of dough dusted with powdered sugar. If it all sounds a bit decadent… well, it was.
At midnight the promised “war zone” well and truly erupted. Marlon and I paused our movie, put on warm hats, and stuck our heads out the window to watch the fireworks all up and down our street, and in every direction as far as we could see.
For a glorious 30 to 45 minutes, my worlds blurred as Amsterdam became Manila. Except it was 30 degrees colder and missing the cacophonic undertone of barking askals (street mongrels) and drunken neighbors singing karaoke until 6am. That’s okay, I can live without those.
I don’t recall ever feeling so at home in this city as I did for the first few minutes of 2016. It seems an auspicious start to the year. I still feel the need to be at home for Christmas, but… “I can do this,” I told Marlon. “I can totally do New Year’s in Amsterdam.”
Oh, and did I mention Tala slept through it all?
Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for sticking around and reading what I write, and being so darned nice about everything. Here’s to more stories and adventures in 2016.