WE DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.
As a family of seven with young kids, our raucous New Years Plans annually include letting the kids stay up late (but not too late), making some offensively unhealthy food, catching a movie, and trying – trying – to stay up to midnight, We had the same plans in place for Silvester this year. The exception was that we heard it was tradition to set off some fireworks in Germany, so bought some at the corner grocery and after nightfall I took the kids out to light ’em up.
WE WERE SETTING OURS OFF AROUND 7PM, and it was eerily quiet outside. I had heard rumours of the riotous German fireworks celebrations and so far, aside from a few pops in the distance, we hadn’t seen anything like that. I chalked it up to our city being unusually relaxed and quiet and decided Hamburg and Berlin must be rockin’. We lit some rockets, burned some 5 minute sparklers, and set off a few Roman candles for a grand finally, and then settled in for a quiet evening. By my standards it was an acceptable fireworks show.
It turned out later, however, that by German standards we were totally outgunned.
AS A FOREWORD to what transpired next, you should know that Germany has a complete nationwide ban on all Class II fireworks (similar to Iowa). You cannot buy them, and you certainly cannot launch them. That ban contains but one singular notable exception, and I quote:
Gezündet werden dürfen Klasse-II-Artikel nach § 23 Abs. 1 der 1. Verordnung zum Sprengstoffgesetz (SprengV) nur vom 31. Dezember 00:00 Uhr bis zum 1.
Class II products (fireworks) may be ignited per section 23 paragraph 1 of the 1st Regulation of the Explosives Act only from Dec 31 at 0:00 until 1 AM.
That’s right everybody, you have exactly one hour. From midnight on Silvester to 1AM, the ban is lifted. Light ’em if you got ’em. And you should have plenty of ’em, because the stores are allowed to sell them by the armload for three days leading up to this time – bottle rockets, roman candles, bombs, noise makers, and even legit full scale-exploding-globe-with-colored-report-and-glitter-trails fireworks worthy of a 4th of July show. At our local grocery store there were tons of them. But you had to be quick to get them, because they sold fast. So at around 7PM when we were lighting ours, I was wondering in my head where all that inventory had gone…
THE KIDS WERE FAST ASLEEP IN THEIR BEDS, our movie was winding down to the conclusion, and we were fighting off some yawns when the iPad finally struck midnight. We toasted some champagne, kissed, and were about to turn our attention back to our movie when…
The apocalypse broke out outside of our living room window.
Our quiet little hamlet erupted. There were people in the streets, on the sidewalks, in their yards, in the vineyards …and all of them simultaneously launching all manner of fireworks. It was clear now where all those fireworks were: People all over the city had been amassing their own personal arsenal and at the stroke of midnight they all launched them directly over our house where they exploded. They came from every direction – from the street in front of our house, from the alley across the street, from the hills, from the backyard…every where we looked the sky was aglow with hundreds (thousands?) of fireworks being lit off by every man, woman and child in the area. We looked out our living room window for a 180 degree view of the Rhine Valley and the entire horizon was ablaze with fireworks. This went on furiously for 10 or 15 minutes, and then steadily for the rest of the hour. And at 1:00A the fireworks came to a stop.
YOU FOOLED ME ONCE GERMANY, but I am serving notice that I don’t plan to be caught unaware next year It will not be a casual 7PM firework display for our family next time. I plan to be at the stores the morning of Dec 29th 2011 when the fireworks sales begin, spend an unholy amount of money, and then I promise to bring some American culture to the area….Rhineland-Pfalz, allow me to introduce you Missouri Redneck.
I think you two will get along just fine.