Jan 012012
We hope 2012 brings times of prosperity, fulfillment, healing and joy to everyone!  I think our whole family will have to agree that 2011 was one of the most memorable years we have ever had.

Obviously, this is our first New Year celebration in our New Country.  As such, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Earlier this week we went to the local Home Supply Store and discovered a startlingly large supply of fireworks.  First- fireworks at the home supply store?  Apparently so, in Germany!  Second… given the sorts of celebrations I had seen in the States, these are the sorts of snarky thoughts I was having:

“Care for some fireworks with that drunken celebration?

How about a “pyro joker” pack?”
“Or would a Shreck Party Pack be more your speed?  Nothing bespeaks ‘Safe and Sane Fireworks’ like knockoff merchandise aimed at children!”

David took one look at the amassed pile of offerings and walked the other way.  He quickly decided that he had no clue what the rules for such things might be in these parts.  In France earlier in the day we saw folks just out on the streets throwing around firecrackers.  But, he suspected the orderly Germans might have guidelines for use that we would simply be beyond our feeble language skillz and cultural ken.  “Well, everyone knows you can use sparklers on balconies but not on the lawn- DUH!”  As a Californian, I had a rather a horrified fascination with the sheer number of available black-powder delivery devices… though the meter long bottle rocket thing with the metal launcher did sort of look like fun!  As it turns out, neither he nor I needed to worry.  But, that part of the story comes later.

A Mild Adventure
Today I was feeling a bit claustrophobic and stuck.  Too many days in a row sitting at a computer for work and play.  So, we did some research and found an English Language movie showing at a reasonable time in Strasbourg.  This is somewhat unusual because for unknown reasons many of the English Language child-friendly films tend to play at completely non-child-friendly times…. like 10 PM or Midnight!  But, this one was on at 1:45 PM.  Completely within our abilities to attend.  We piled in the car and headed out to the Star Saint Exupéry Cinema.  Which is located on Rue du 22-Novembre.  As you might guess, that means,  22nd of November Street.  I checked the web and was unable to find anything French that trumps Kennedy’s assassination (though on this side of the border, Angela Merkel was apparently elected on that day in 2005), so I guess it is just a nice gesture on the part of the city of Strasbourg.  

In any case, returning to the story, we hopped in the car and drove to France.  Garmin got us there OK.  And, we even found nearby parking in a narrow, many-story pay lot with only one ramp for going both up and down.  We dodged the usual Scary French Drivers (TM)- including the one impatient guy who wanted to whip around us as we stopped to allow a driver from the opposite direction to pass on the single-width ramp in the parking structure.  Yeesh!  We then took the elevator down 6 stories to the ground- where there was a fancy hair salon…. in the middle of the parking lot… Hmmm.  Ok!  France can be a bit odd.

Quick trip around the corner to the line at the theater where the nice lady hand wrote out tickets for us.  Their computer was broken, so scratch paper and a human scrawl worked fine.  This was a small, art-house operation. The concession stand consisted of vending machines.  One with sodas.  Another with candy.  And, a third small box proclaiming 2 flavors of popcorn- sweet and salty.  The salty one was empty.  The sweet looked decidedly stale.  We passed on all of the above and went to the theater.  Where, as soon as we sat down- the movie started!  No previews!  No ads at all!  Just a lovely film.

We saw Hugo- which here is called Hugo Cabret (perhaps to better distinguish it from Victor?).  The irony of watching a film that ostensibly takes place in Paris acted by an English cast with French translations at the bottom was not entirely lost on me.  But, mostly it was just nice to 1) see a movie in a theater.  And, 2) see the French subtitles, to shake some of the cobwebs off my French.   

Back in Offenburg,
I cooked yet another scheuffele and we settled in to relax and await the New Year.  I didn’t really expect it to be much different than in the US.  But, I was delighted to discover I was wrong.  How do the orderly Germans celebrate the New Year?

  Please watch the video with the volume on.

With semi-orderly chaos!  Just after midnight we noticed our neighbors with friends and families in tow making their way outside.  Many were carrying packages of fireworks like the ones we saw at the Bauhaus.  Already, there was some pop pop popping.  And, soon the ubiquitous church bells joined in the tumult. But, that was all about to becomes exponentially louder.  

Within a couple minutes, the entire night sky was alight with hundreds of individual fireworks shows!  Remember those packets I showed up top?  They were only a few EU a piece.  And people apparently bought them in bulk!  I would say that just about 1/3-1/2 of all the houses visible were having their own little fireworks displays.  All simultaneously at Midnight!  And by “little” I mean… well, what you saw in that video!  Think of your crazy neighbor in the states who went down to Mexico to stock up, then came back to put on his own show for the neighborhood.  Only, every house is doing that.  And, unlike on the 4th of July, where displays may linger for hours after dark, and so are somewhat diluted over time, all the fireworks were set off over the course of about one hour.  Rockets and roman candles and sparklers were more popular than firecrackers.  The idea seemed to be to light the German sky as much as possible.  And, judging from the local efforts, I have to say, 2012 ring-in must be considered successful on that front!  Unfortunately, my camera was not entirely up to the task of capturing the array.  But, here are a couple of my better photos that give at least some idea of what it was like.

Looking out our kitchen window at Bühl- you can count about 6 individual houses putting on displays across the dozen or so houses visible

I think this is looking East toward the suburb of Bohlsbach, similar to Bühl.

Every other house looked like this!
Looking directly up from under one of the balconies in our apartment complex
To be accurate…
This did not seem at all to be a drunken wild party.  All the celebrations within our viewing range were being carried out in relatively family-friendly fashion with reasonable precautions.  And, the dampness from recent rain (and even a little drizzle while we were out) added a layer of comfort in keeping things fire-resistant.  Though, being a newb, I didn’t realize that a box on the ground was actually a launching pad and almost blundered into a mishap!  And, just as we were walking back into the building, a shower of large live sparks landed on the ground a meter or so behind DD.  There were, of course, some giddy teenagers about, but everything remained pleasant- and very encompassing- for about an hour.  Then things petered off and folks, presumably, wandered off to bed.

Not that there wasn’t some bubbly involved!
If the hardware store was well-stocked with fireworks the week before the holiday, the grocers were all very well stocked with sparkling wines!  There were French Champagnes, Prosecco from Italy, Spanish, American, and, of course, German wines, too.  We tried to find our traditional Sparking Apple Cider, but failed.  So, when in Germany…..

We bought selections of what seemed to be the more common and area-centric options.  One bottle of Prosecco, with enticingly rustic string bindings.

And one bottle of Sekt mit Hollunderblüte -which translates to Champagne with Elderberry blossoms!  

I really enjoyed the Prosecco we had with Kim et al in Switzerland, but, Sekt mit Hollunderblüte just seemed way too Germanically intriguing, so, we went with that!  Pleasant, light and slightly sweet.  Good choice!  The kids had a couple sips, and got to clang cups together.  David and I kissed.  Then, the outside celebrations erupted, so we all threw on shoes and jackets (over jammies in DS’s case) and hustled out to see the show. 

As a side note- we completely failed to find whatever the German equivalent of New Years Rockin’ Eve or whatever might be.  I flipped around the channels for a good 10 minutes, but nothing seemed to be doing a countdown or showing international celebrations- or even playing much music (other than the standard music video channels).  I was left wondering whether that sort of thing is just completely unnecessary here.  Everyone seemed to be out and about having their own celebrations.  Maybe television would be considered redundant?

So, there you have it.  Our first New Year’s Celebration in a New Country.  I haven’t really had time to process the Greater Issues of this particular New Year.  But, there will be time for that.  Right now it is just sort of a relief to have made it to this Timespace landmark.  How did you spend your celebration?  Any particular plans for the New Year? 

Leave a Reply