In the week before New Year's Eve, the local newpaper ran a story about how toxic fireworks are (cobalt! strontium!), and then had short "citizen on the street" interviews with four people, all of whom claimed that they would not be setting off fireworks for New Year's. I checked that newspaper vigilantly for mention of when and where the city's official fireworks would be but without luck. The grocery stores we frequent had only sparklers for sale. I had therefore categorized New Year's as a "fireworks-optional" holiday.
On 31 december, we got up and had some breakfast, took a walk to the nearby horse farm to watch the sunset (yes, right after breakfast), and were treated to a spectacular view of the crescent moon and a very bright Venus in close proximity. We then commenced preparations for our New Year's Eve traditions: homemade French onion soup, chocolate mousse, and at least one Marx Brothers' movie. (The mousse went a little roughly this year: for the first time ever, I had melted chocolate seize on me. Traumatic for me, because no one should have to see that; traumatic for Joe, because then he had to bike to the store for more chocolate.) As we were doing so, we could hear small, rather infrequent bangs off in the distance, maybe three or four an hour. "Well, at least some kids have fireworks going," I thought, "I hope they save some for tonight."
Dinner and dessert were eaten, "A Day at the Races" was watched, and midnight approached. We turned on the TV coverage of celebrations at the outdoor Skansen Museum in Stockholm, which included various acrobats performing with fire sticks, a fire breather, and something I had never seen before, a performer with a flaming whip that popped off a gout of flame when snapped. Surely there will be some big fireworks there, I thought. As the host of the program counted up (yes, counted up, from en to tolv) to midnight and the New Year, the fireworks started in the distance behind him, and they were impressive.
But I had to go back and watch the TV coverage later, because meanwhile, the skies all around our apartment had started flashing. Fireworks! and set off from somewhere very close by the sound of it. We were able to watch from the couch for a while, but then I couldn't stand to be inside while all this was going on outside, and so we went to our little porch in our fancy clothes, as the temperature hovered around -8C. There were fireworks all around us. It was not a fireworks show per se, just lots of private citizens with the proper attitude about ringing in the New Year. And although some of it was bottle-rocket kid stuff, most of it was real mortars. The fireworks went on for a solid half hour, and it was a new and interesting experience, to be surrounded by the light and noise.
On our walk out to see the first sunset of 2009, we found a trampled circle in the middle of a half-size soccer field less than 100 meters from our house, and a used box, sitting amongst a trash bin overflowing with firework wrappers, all neatly cleaned up by the citizenry.
Remember at the beginning of this post, when I said that all the people the newspaper interviewed said that they would not set off fireworks? I suspect the paper had to interview 100 Uppsalabo to find those four. The other 96 people most certainly did set off fireworks.