Nothing like a good fire...

There’s nothing like a good old fire to bring in the new year. So on the first Sunday after Three Kings, the city of Amsterdam holds its annual Christmas tree burning fete, open to all, whether you bring a Christmas tree or not.

Most people do, but regardless, it’s a spectacle to behold, mostly because it takes place on the Museumplein, next to the Rijks-, Van Gogh- and Stedelijk museums, out in the open air.

All afternoon, residents drag their Christmas trees to the square,

and pile them up high,

then higher,

then even higher…

And finally, at dusk, a fireman comes along and lets the whole thing go up.

It goes up surprisingly fast,

to many cheers and shouts of awe – flames licking 50 feet into the sky, pine needles turned to glowing ash in an instant, shooting into the night sky like fireworks.

And it lasts a good hour and a half. Free admission and hot chocolate included.

Somehow, burning things has always brought me more hope than sadness,

perhaps because it’s a bit like cleaning the slate, a pruning of excess, and I think most of the people there this year felt the same.

Otherwise they wouldn’t have shown up. So here’s to a Happy New Year.