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Column: crazy cold humans

Niels Cölen

Traditions in The Netherlands come from oaths of passage from far and wide across the land, legends, myths and outright cartoon craziness, all which have one thing in common: food. Having already been around in The Netherlands for a while the so called ‘nieuwjaarsduik’ had been a topic of shush and whisper in the international community at Avans.

As newcomers without cars, the ocean seamed a world away, and the idea of jumping into the North Sea on a winter day already seemed good enough of a reason to leave it as it was. But in the end as months came and went, so did restrictions with them, finally leaving us with a cozy lockdown with an eventless 2021-2022 holiday season. As nice as a home new year celebration with a grand total of 4 guests seemed, the student house at the corner of Robijstraat had something different in mind.

You could almost see your breath freeze on that windy New Year’s Eve night, but with a steaming trunk full of homemade green pudding, otherwise known as pea soup aka erwtensoep wrapped in blankets and foils upon foils to cover in order to keep warm for the grand finale, the students were on their way. They all knew it was important to steer clear of crowds, so with a bit of Dutch know-how and the advice of a local or two the northern beaches of Wijk aan Zee became the final destination. What the students failed to foresee was the second grand national tradition that would come upon them. The fireworks. But being that all public displays shows of fireworks had been cancelled it was taken for granted that these would be of little concern.

As all good students, house Robijnstraat in Breda arrived at timely 23:45 at the sand dunes, struggling their way to make it down to the beach on time. But before they knew it they heard it, “five, four, three, two, one” went the countdown, seconds before midnight, and in unison with the local church bells in the background, they all ran into the somewhat brisk waters of the Dutch beach. With the fresh gulp of salt, a sky in flames went up in the background. A rather desolate beach turned into a blaze of colours, explosions and sparks flying all around.


My name is Niels Cölen, I came to the Netherlands from Australia to study my current bachelor of Environmental Science for Sustainable Energy and Technology in Breda. As a well known blabbermouth and talebearer I am always keen to hear a good story. Drop by in a minute. Thnx.

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