“Is it true what they say about New Year’s Eve in Berlin?” People who haven’t been here for Silvester yet ask you sometimes. “It can’t be as bad as they say it it, can it? They must be exaggerating a little? How bad can it be? They make it sound like the city turns into a war zone!”
Gather round the fireplace, Exberliner fans, while this old wizened crone who has lived in this cold, dark city some 19 winters will let you know, in the voice of the witch from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, when she sees her own death: WHATEVER YOU HAVE HEARD MY CHILDREN THE REALITY IS EVEN WORSE!
War zone doesn’t begin to cover it. Teenagers stand on balconies and merrily hurl burning missiles at your head. Every time you yelp, petrified your baby might get hurt or killed or I dunno BLINDED, the same old grannies who told you off for leaving the house in summer without putting socks on him grin at your fear nonchalantly. The said teenagers (evil) literally laugh because they know you are scared of dying and they consider this kind of emotion hugely pussyish. Your Russian best friend sighs, bored, all around you fireworks are exploding, you are literally jumping about dodging death like you’re in a video game, your kids cry, dogs moan, YOUR RUSSIAN BEST FRIEND IS BORED, like she is literally bored, that’s how hard she is (as nails).
“Jorcintorrrrrr,” she drawls, unperturbed, unconcerned, indifferent, TOTALLY FUCKING RELAXED, “why are you so worried? German fireworks are the best in the world?”
“OLGA!” You scream. Literally all around you, everything is on fire and it is raining actual fireworks and nobody but you cares and the kids are about to die. “GOOD FIREWORKS KILL PEOPLE! THEY ARE LITERALLY FLAMING BALLS OF FIRE THAT IS WHAT A FIREWORK IS! WHAT IS YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM?”
Your German friend, who all year long, corrects her daughter’s grammar, doesn’t let her eat chocolate, bans Peppa Pig and Disney and Barbie because you know, sensory overload, and only lets her play with wooden toys because the chemicals in plastic apparently might damage her development or something arrives and promptly hands all the tiny children in the vicinity BIG FUCK-OFF FIREWORKS and lets them all light them and hurl them at each other like they’re fucking frisbees. You take the firework off of your kid and he starts crying, your German non-Disney watching mum friend looks at you disapprovingly.
“Do you really want to pass on your fear of fire to him, Jacinta, like Muslim women do with swimming and dogs?”
“YES!” You scream. “YES! I WANT HIM TO BE SCARED OF FIRE! BECAUSE I WANT TO GIVE HIM THE GIFT OF LIFE!”
It is literally worse than anything you have ever imagined. The next day, over breakfast, your German mum friend will be correcting her kid for saying wegen dem instead of wegen des and your Russian friend will read you the news smugly and say, “See nobody died. Only one kid in Brandenburg got blinded and one kid in Pankow lost a hand, Jacinta. You were panicking about nothing.” You just stare at her and don’t speak. What is there to say. I would literally, if I could, vote Green if they introduced a fireworks ban. Some of the things I do for Greta cost me dearly (well, if I did them they would) but verzichting auf fireworks? That would come easily to me. Unfortunately, Berliners might love Greta – but they love nearly dying on Silvester more. WHAT A FUCKING NIGHTMARE!