Culture, Gelderland, New Year, Typically Dutch, winter

New Dutch New Year Traditions: Carbidschieten

It’s time for the traditional oliebollen, bonfires and fireworks in the Netherlands but this year we’ll be experiencing something new because we now live in the east of the country. This year we’ll experience live carbidschieten. Just goes to show that even after seventeen years in a country you can still encounter new things.

Our gezellig new year celebrations usually involve a special meal together finished with lots of icing sugar covered oliebollen, music, champagne and fireworks at midnight and then watching the London fireworks on the television at 1am.

Some years we took a trip in the afternoon over to Scheveningen to take a peek at the two enormous bonfires being built.

New Dutch New Year Traditions: CarbidschietenThis year we’re adding carbidschieten to our New Year celebrations, a tradition that was added to the Dutch national cultural heritage list in 2014.

It’s something that happens in the north and east of the Netherlands but not generally in the west where I lived for the majority of my time in this country.

Traditionally it’s likely part of the ‘chasing away bad spirits’ trend that has been going on since the Germanic period – the same reason for all the fireworks at this time of year.

Carbidschieten translated is carbide shooting. But that may not clear up the confusion about what it actually is for non-Dutchies. Wikipedia describes carbide like this:

“In chemistry, a carbide is a compound composed of carbon and a less electronegative element.”

Clear yet? One last attempt; it’s basically blowing up calcium carbid in a milk churn.

There’s a video and a very clear explanation step by step here about carbidschieten.

The specifics of how to ensure your carbidschieten adventures end with a real knal are also conveniently laid out in this Drenthe regional article.

You can buy everything you need in the agricultural shops (our local Welkoop has bags of carbide by the tills to buy) or online. But it’s not something you should just decide to do without a little bit of thought.

Needless to say it’s an activity that is not without danger – worse case scenario was namely that the metal lid blew off and killed a spectator. But the Dutch found a solution to this problem and now replace the metal lids with plastic footballs. Still fun, less risk of death. Win win.

And there are of course rules around carbidschieten, just as there are around the use of fireworks. Rules do vary by gemeente (for example some councils do not allow it on the 31st December this year because it is a Sunday and zondagsrust takes priority so any carbiedschieten will be happening today) so these are examples of some of the rules.

  • You need to be at least 18 years old
  • You should not be drunk. Alcohol and carbide shooting are not good together
  • It should happen between 10am on the 31st December and 2am on the 1st January
  • No lids may be used on the churns – footballs are allowed
  • You may shoot no more than 10 milk churns with a maximum capacity of 40 litres
  • An area must be cordoned off to avoid that an unsuspecting passerby is shot with a football or is unwittingly in the blast zone!

So for the first time in my life I will be standing in a field on New Year’s Eve watching someone blow footballs out of milk churns. I can confirm that is not something I thought I would be saying when I was asked to come and live in the Netherlands seventeen years ago. But I can tell you that my boys are excited as hell! Photos to follow……..


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