Another new year’s eve (almost) without rockets and firecrackers

Firecrackers and rockets often divide opinions. In view of full hospitals however also New Year’s Eve 2021/22 becomes to a large extent bollerfrei. Nevertheless the turn of the year does not have to be dreary.

This year, New Year's Eve will be quieter again. Firecrackers and fireworks may not be sold at the turn of the year 2021/22

Berlin – Now it’s official: New Year’s Eve will be quieter again. Firecrackers and fireworks may not be sold at the turn of the year 2021/22. This is what the federal and state governments decided on Thursday. Even those who already have some should have to do without them in certain crowded places – which are determined by the municipalities. Rocket lighting is generally discouraged to avoid burdening hospitals with more casualties during the pandemic. In the crowd it could come besides to more Corona infections, so the fear. The reactions are mixed: While animal and environmentalists are happy, for others this means that a beloved New Year’s Eve tradition is cancelled. Why are just the rockets and firecrackers many so important?

Same expectations, prospect of something new

"The fireworks once again mark the special nature of the day: on the remaining days of the year, the night’s rest is strictly observed except for other registered festivities, but on New Year’s Eve firecrackers are allowed," explains Judith Gloria Porschke, who conducts research on rituals and festive culture at the University of Jena, among other things. New Year’s Eve has a special meaning for many people: "On New Year’s Eve, all the people in the neighborhood go out and wait for them to light the lights and fireworks together. This creates for a short duration a feeling of togetherness with also strangers. People look up to the night sky with equal expectations, waiting for the new year and what it brings, wishing each other a happy new year."

Such a feeling of togetherness is usually only found in close circles. "That’s what rituals have in common: a public, a common reason and a higher meaning. This is more than just banging. This is the greeting of the New Year," explains the folklorist and cultural historian.

Not sold because of pandemic

Already in the past year fireworks of the category F2 – thus the classical New Year’s Eve fireworks – were not allowed to be sold because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, colorful rockets could be seen in many residential areas – some people apparently still had stocks from the previous year or had bought firecrackers, for example, in Poland.

Jurgen Resch of the German Environmental Aid (DUH) now demands that it must be ensured that no pyrotechnics are burned nationwide. The resolution of Thursday does not go so far. DUH has long advocated a ban on private fireworks – after all, animals are stressed by the noise, the environment is polluted, particulate pollution from the black powder is high and there are many people injured by firecrackers and rockets, according to the association.

To the "numerous injuries as a result of misapplied firecrackers or rockets" also refers to the chairman of the Conference of Health Ministers of the states, Klaus Holetschek. "Any avoidable additional pollution must be absolutely prevented in the current situation," said Holetschek, who is also Bavaria’s Minister of Health, the "Augsburger Allgemeine" (Saturday edition).

Problems caused by illegal fireworks

For the Association of the Pyrotechnic Industry (VPI), on the other hand, the utilization of hospitals is not an argument for the sales ban: illegal fireworks and too much alcohol, but not legal New Year’s Eve fireworks, caused problems. Firecracker manufacturers even warn of a "death blow to the entire fireworks industry in Germany".

The police union (GdP) appeals to the common sense of citizens: when hospital employees fight day and night for the lives of thousands of people in intensive care units, it is in solidarity to refrain from celebrations with large gatherings of people, said federal chairman Oliver Malchow to the German Press Agency. "It is precisely the mixture of crowds, partying and alcohol that is responsible for the spread of the coronavirus that causes infection figures to skyrocket." He announced, "Fireworks bans, of course, will not be able to be controlled and enforced by the police everywhere. At the known celebration miles in city centers, however, the police will show presence and show unteachable people in the ropes."

New Year’s Eve Rituals for 2021

Still, there are New Year’s Eve rituals that can still work in 2021. "You can, for example, wax casting: The images symbolically refer to what might come in the new year. Or make a lentil soup and eat it, the lentils represent the money we could get in the new year," says Porschke. "Or you can make a table fireworks – it’s not so loud, but the symbolic meaning remains. And beyond firecrackers, isn’t the most important thing to share New Year’s Eve rituals – of any kind – with the people with whom you plan to spend the coming year as well?"

At least for vaccinated and recovered people, that will probably be possible this year as well. Contact restrictions for meetings of small groups are foreseen for the time being only if at least one unvaccinated person participates. Then, in addition to your own household, only two people from another household should be allowed to be there, children under 14 are exempt. Aerosol researcher Gerhard Scheuch reminds us that the risk of contagion is many times higher indoors than outdoors: therefore, when meeting indoors, there should be fewer people, meetings should be shorter, and they should be ventilated.

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