The typically Dutch tradition is coming under fire
Written by Thomas Ansell
More and more people would like a firework ban in place, and opinion is moving towards thinking that fireworks cause difficulties for lots of residents, whilst also posing a significant safety risk. At the same time, it is also being considered how the tradition of ‘Carbide Shooting’, or ‘Carbidschieten’ fits into any potential firework ban, as reported in the Omrop Fryslân.
What is ‘Carbidschieten’?
So, how does ‘Carbidschieten’ work, and what risks does it pose? More importantly, could this Dutch tradition co-exist with any fire-work ban? The most important thing to remember is that ‘Carbidschieten’ should not be attempted by anyone without experienced assistance, and is an actively dangerous way of celebrating the new year.
A small amount of calcium carbide (used in fertiliser and industrial chemical production) is dropped into a metal milk churn, along with water. This causes the calcium carbide to decompose and produce acetylene gas, which is then burned by a flame next to a small hole in the milk churn. The resulting explosion sends the lid of the churn spinning tens of metres, and a hugely loud bang. From the 1980’s the lid was usually replaced by a ball, for safety reasons.
There are competitions, and the Stichting Carbidschieten Drenthe even presents a ‘Milk Churn Trophy’ to the winner of the Open Carbide Shooting Championship. Groningen has its own Open Groninger Carbidschiet competition, held in Oude Pekela. Whilst now the tradition mainly takes place on New Year’s Eve, in the past young Dutch men would even ‘shoot the bride’ after a wedding to celebrate their marriage. The practice has even been submitted by the Netherlands as an ‘immaterial cultural good’ to UNESCO.
Is it legal?
Fireworks fall under so-called ‘pyrotechnic mixtures’, and are regulated by the Dutch government. However, Carbidschieten does not, and so it is not regulated by firework laws: moreover this means that there is no country-wide set of laws on the practice, but some aspects of the practice are covered by other regulations, including environmental, noise, and waste laws.
At a municipal level, there are rules around the activity with most requiring an application for a permit to shoot carbides. The municipality of Súdwest-Fryslân, for example, requires an application two weeks prior. In Noardeast-Fryslân specific permission must always be sought, whilst in Eaststellingwerf the local municipality has no rules around permits or permission.
Whilst there are some incidents of people being hurt by Carbidschieten (in 2009 a man died in an accident), there is much more appetite for a firework ban than a Carbide ban.