Hate is not a strong enough verb for how I feel about New Year's Eve in Berlin. No, to fully describe how I feel about this holiday I need to borrow one of the verb's stronger synonyms: Detest. Abhor. Despise. Loathe.
I'm not really much of a New Year's person in general. Though an admitted lush, I don't like getting drunk and resent the pressure that, somehow, I should. On New Year's all the good places are full, everyone is plastered and the cover charges are three times what they should or would be on any other day. I've had a couple of good New Year's Eves (a spontaneous Madonna dance party in Brooklyn being one of the best) but overall, it's an evening where I groan. "What am I going to do on this stupid New Year's?"
Still, there is one answer I know for sure: Try and not be in Berlin. The reason? Fireworks. I'm not talking pretty, up-in-the-sky-like.multi-colored stars fireworks that you can watch peacefully while sipping a glass of champagne. I'm talking grenade sized, deafeningly loud fireworks, in the hands of drunk people in a city known for its rampant aggression, all of which are being tossed out of windows and off of rooftops at anything that moves.
A few years ago, when I was pregnant with Mia, Jasper and I went out to get a falafel at around eight o'clock on Silvester (New Year's Eve in German). This being Kreuzberg, the streets were already a war zone, with explosions coming from every direction. In the end, we literally ended up running home.
I've never been able to figure out why they haven't outlawed or at least seriously restricted fireworks in Berlin. Hundreds of people get hurt every year: fingers blown off, hearing damaged, eyes blinded, the works. And, of course, there is also the mess. And the smell. And we're going to be here this year. Sigh.
Still, I did have one small victory. On the 27th (our wedding anniversary) we were walking to the bus stop with the babies at 6 o'clock when some jerk started tossing cherry bombs from his balcony. As we walked under these insanely loud explosives that were coming closer and closer to our heads, I felt a well of anger stir up inside me (note: I was a sweet and mild creature until I moved to Berlin. This city has the uncanny ability of forcing you to voice your own inner rage....) "Fucking stop it right now!" I shouted at the top of my lungs in Denglish (Deutsch/English) "It's not New Year's yet, you assholes!!!" Normally no one cares if they get a little lip for misbehaving (and a lot of people have been setting fireworks off early) but something in my voice must have made them understand I meant business because they immediately went back inside.
"I think you scared them," Jasper said. Yes! Berlin, all I have to say is, Guten Rutsch my ass! Next New Year's I'll be far, far away in a much more civilized land....