Last night was my first New Year’s Eve in Berlin, what a contrast to the dreary obligations and inevitably underwhelming celebrations in London.
Sylvester here is marked with fireworks but not just the odd sparkler and Roman candle, rather a quantity of explosive sufficient for a small war. Rockets, launched from champagne bottles, ricocheted off the buildings in Pappel Allee in Prenzlauerberg, fire crackers split the night and shells exploded overhead, a thousand artificial stars above the city. The air stank of cordite and negotiating safe passage on the streets required some vigilance, as stray Catherine wheels span out of control and kids lobbed firecrackers on Helmholtzplatz.
Now in England, every November 6th, the day following bonfire night, the press is invariably full of reports of lost fingers and eyes but the interesting thing here is that there seems no instinct to regulate or ban this display of explosive exuberance. There was no organisation of these impromptu displays, no experts with safety glasses and roped off areas, no choreography just an overwhelming feeling of spontaneity and danger. Parents took care that their kids stood well back and everyone else just had to duck.
This gleeful and anarchistic celebration seemed to me the perfect way to mark the turning of the year.