The Battle For The Largest Bonfire In The Netherlands


In the last few days of the year leading up to the midnight of December 31, two Dutch teams from the neighboring districts of Scheveningen (in Noorderstrand) and Duindorp (in Zuiderstrand) battle each other on Scheveningen’s North Beach for the title of “the largest bonfire in the Netherlands”. The long tradition and a matter of pride keeps the emotions churning as enthusiastic participants stack wooden crates and pallets as high as they can. The battle is closely monitored not only from Scheveningen and Duindorp, but also in the rest of the Netherlands and beyond. Tourists come all the way from America, Germany, France and England to see the bonfires. Before the bonfires are lit on the midnight of December 31, there are usually performances by artists and fireworks display.

Photo credit: reddit

The tradition of lighting bonfires to celebrate important events goes back by at least a few centuries. In Scheveningen, the first bonfire after Christmas were probably lit around 1850. After World War II, The Hague became the center of New Year celebration. At that time, groups of young people would go out hunting for Christmas trees and would put a match to it. Fights between rival gangs often resulted in injuries.

Photo credit: Arjen Toet

The police tried to keep the situation under control by designating six congregation places where bonfires could be lit. But the crowd continued to be as unruly as ever, dumping everything that’s combustible on the fire —Christmas trees, tires, and furniture. These unstable structures became a fire hazard. Besides drunk young men often caused trouble in the area, forcing the city police to restrict all bonfire lighting activities to the North Beach.

Photo credit: Arjen Toet

The city proposed that they could build bonfires as big and high as they wanted as long as they keep the infighting among themselves civilized and organized and on the beach. They could only use wooden crates. No tire burning or Christmas tree burning was allowed. Most people felt the new rules were too strict and missed the thrill of hunting for Christmas trees in the neighborhoods and other things to burn. Some neighborhoods took part for a year or two and then quit. The only two groups that remained are Scheveningen and Duindorp. Now most neighborhoods who wishes to take part either side with Scheveningen or with Duindorp.

This year Duindorp won the battle again.

h/t: amusingplanet, vreugdevuur-scheveningen

Photo credit: Maurits Verbiest

Photo credit: Maurits Verbiest

Photo credit: Maurits Verbiest

Photo credit: Maurits Verbiest

Photo credit: Arjen Toet

Photo credit: Hollandse-Hoogte via ZUMA Press

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