Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year’s Eve Experiences

Fireworks at the Kampala Sheraton (Monitor Photo)

Ali Balunywa

15 years ago, New Years Eve in Uganda was about burning tyres in the middle of the road, drinking and shouting. Only the Sheraton Hotel in the central business district of Kampala exhibited fireworks! And to witness the fireworks from the Sheraton one had to drive there 2 hours before midnight in order not be caught up in the traffic jam! I recall on the eve of the millennium, I was stuck in the jam for 3 hours. I watch the display from my car just a few hundred yards from the Sheraton.

Fast forward to 31 December 2012. Midnight found me outside our house in Mbuya. The fireworks display this time was from different directions. Just in front of our house is the Silver Springs Hotel, which then had the best display. However in the neighbourhood there was Bamboo Nest entertainment Centre and Gabiro (a drinking joint) to West and Zone Seven Club to the East, all which exhibited colourful fireworks. The sky was all lit up; unfortunately the police allow this exhibition to last only 5 minutes!
Fireworks at the Kampala Hilton (Monitor Photo)

According to press reports, last year’s New Year’s Eve (31 December 2013), the police authorized 351 places to display fireworks for 5 minutes. Many upcountry places where also licensed. Including places as far as Arua, Mbale, Kabale and Gulu! In Kampala traditional venues like Sheraton, Hilton, Serena, Mandela Stadium were joined by the likes of Silver Springs, Zone 7, Kololo airstrip, Bamboo Nest, Ange Noir and many others competed for revelers by adding fireworks on their menu.

Fireworks in the City of Rotterdam

This time however, 31 December 2013 found me in the Netherlands.  The Netherlands has strict laws relating to the sale of fireworks. They may only be sold to the public from licensed locations during a few days prior to December 31.  Fireworks can only be lit off from 10.0am on December 31 until 2am on January 1. It is not permitted to light fireworks in the immediate vicinity of zoos, animal shelters, stables or near large groups of people. There are 1600 sales points which all have to meet strict regulations for a license.

Fireworks in Amsterdam

As for New Years Eve fireworks, the people of the Netherlands absolutely love to watch them. So much so that the whole of the country is covered in private displays all night starting from around 6pm until well into the following day. There is a limit to the wait and composition of fireworks, so for bigger displays, individuals have to smuggle them in from Belgium or Germany. Most homesteads, municipalities and nightlife venues take part in this exercise. There is a negative aspect to fireworks like loss of lives, fire, loss of limbs and or eyes!

Fireworks in the Dutch City of Utrecht

Generally, Dutch people are very fond of vuurwerk (fireworks). Back in the days, it was believed that the noise and flashes of fireworks would scare away the evil spirits that would bring misery in the New Year. Nowadays, the only misery in the New Year comes with the gigantic amount of money that people lack due to what they spent on fireworks. The Dutch spends around 70 million Euros each year on vuurwerk. From the 28th of December, all kinds of vuurwerk can be bought by individuals. Vuurpijlen (skyrockets) and rotjes (firecrackers) are the most popular.

Fireworks may only be ignited on the 31st of December from 10 AM until 2 AM, January 1st. However, often people already blow up some things before that. And still, every year at midnight, everybody wishes happy New Year, drinks a sip of sparkling wine and then goes outside to see what beautiful fireworks is shot in the sky. (

Fireworks in form of the Dutch flag

Whenever I experience fireworks shows in the Netherlands, I am reminded of the 1979 and 1986 liberation wars in Uganda. It is reminiscent of the sound of the big guns (saba saba), anti aircraft guns, automatic weapons, bombs and grenade explosions as government and rebels fought for Kampala and other areas.

1 comment:

Herry Johnson said...

KARWEI Boskoop is de brandkrakers die het doel van Boskoop, Benthuizen, Waddinxveen, Moerkapelle en omringende zones bieden! Wij bieden de mooiste firecrackers in het assortiment! Inderdaad, zelfs mensen uit Gouda, Zevenhuizen, Bodegraven en Reeuwijk komen ons voor onze Vuurwerk Voorverkoop! Dit is bovendien door onze energieke firecrackers activiteiten! We hebben een substantiële groepering, die raketten, grote batterijen, jongeren vuurkrakers en geweren bevat. Alle hoge kaliber, tegen een agressieve kosten! Dus woon je in Alphen aan nook Rijn, Boskoop, Waddinxveen, Benthuizen of Moerkapelle? Of, aan de andere kant, leeft u verder weg? Bijvoorbeeld in Gouda, Bodegraven, Zevenhuizen of Reeuwijk? Probeer niet te vallen en gestopt door!

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