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New Year's Eve in a new country

In Brazil, New Year's traditions vary according to religion and region. But regardless of these two factors, for everyone the New Year happens at the height of summer. I grew up in São Paulo in a less religious family. My memories of New Year's Eve are all on the beach: the seconds count towards the new year happening with our feet in the sand, while everyone around us dresses in white and enjoys those minutes of pure hope for the year to come. When midnight passed, we greeted everyone around us (including strangers!) and watched the fireworks show. Then it was time to jump the 7 waves in the sea to bring luck in the year that started and leave the bad energies of the past year behind - a religious ritual from a Brazilian religion, but which for many people no longer carries a religious symbol.

So, when I think of New Year's Eve, I think of sea, sun, bikini, popsicles. That's also why after I moved to the Netherlands, I really missed the warmth at this time of year. But once here, I had to adapt. Perhaps one of the hardest parts of being an immigrant is leaving traditions we love so much behind, and creating new ones that fit our new reality. It takes an appreciative look around us that is not always easy to have.

On my "Dutch journey", I was able to appreciate the New Year's traditions here. Even in that absurd cold, everyone goes to the streets. New Year's Eve is very busy, creating that buzz of anticipation for the turn of the year. In smaller cities (and some neighborhoods in big cities too), it's common for people to go out into the street to count the seconds of the turn with their neighbors, and some even offer fresh homemade oliebollen for everyone!

On New Year's Eve, buying and selling fireworks is legal in the Netherlands. For the nightmare of some and the delight of others, the 31st and 1st are filled with the noise of fireworks throughout the day, together with laughter and happy screams from children and teenagers. On the night of the 31st, many families with children can be seen releasing tiny fireworks in the street.

And of course, how can we not love Nieuwjaarsduik, also known as the polar bear diving? This New Year's dive on the beach takes place every January 1st (when there was no COVID). The biggest event takes place in Scheveningen, where hundreds of courageous people gather for the great dip in freezing waters.

So I accepted that my December 31st traditions aren't possible here, and created my new New Year's Eve ritual: watching the fireworks show at Erasmusbrug in Rotterdam with my friends, wearing layers of coats, with a bottle of prosecco in the backpack and a bag of oliebollen next to it. And who knows, when COVID passes I might even try the Nieuwjaarsduik in 2023!

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