Published in El Pais, 1 January 2022.
A new year has arrived. But the way we enter this new year is different around the world. As I have lived in Bolivia and now live again in the Netherlands, I can say that I have and am enjoying the traditions of both countries.
Holland has its traditions, but perhaps the best-known tradition is a food known as ‘oliebollen’ in a way you can compare them to the ‘buñuelos’ in Bolivia. But the Dutch have turned them into balls and got the hole out of them. They fill them with raisins or apples and serve it with powdered sugar. The New Year’s party is different. In some cases people get together with friends or family. Most start their party at eight o’clock at night, some with food others only with snacks such as the ‘oliebollen’.
Approaching midnight, as in many parts of the world, in the Netherlands Champagne and a lot of beer are also ready. That’s where everything is different. In Bolivia, at midnight the traditions begin by counting grapes and climbing the stairs. You leave the house with suitcases and money is counted and the relatives hugged, there is a lot of joy, because the first of January everything has to be perfect since the good of the first one will be repeated all year round. The Dutch run straight to the fireworks, to see or ignite them. During this outing to the street, usually in sub-zero temperatures, everyone exchanges good wishes and phone calls are made.
Before COVID-19, the Dutch spent up to €77 million on fireworks. Between 400-700 people also arrived at emergency rooms due to accidents with fireworks. Just because of this, very loud and dangerous fireworks have been banned. With this, the number of people arriving in emergency the room has dropped to only 100 people.
The day after, Holland is practically in a coma, until at least noon. All is closed and you don’t see any soul in the streets. I was always surprised that when I lived in Cochabamba, how many people still get up early, take a shower to bless themselves and start the year well. Many go to Mass. On one occasion I woke up at 05h00 AM to go to the New Year’s Mass in Totora. Something tiring but very nice, that I will never forget.
In this new 2022, I want to take the opportunity to wish all those who live in Bolivia a happy Year, full of prosperity and good health.