Party like a Nederlander
June 5, 2016 12:56 PM   Subscribe

New Years in Holland, and the tradition of Carbidschieten.
posted by endotoxin (16 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are...are those bowling balls?

And...are they aimed towards...Germany?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:02 PM on June 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Here we have rural Dutch families enjoying their traditional winter sport, carbidschieten, or Carbide Shooting. It's a ridiculously dangerous machine akin to a potato gun, designed to hurl projectiless from the mouth of a metal milk can.
Carbide shooting, that wacky Dutch New Year's tradition, begins with moistening calcicum carbide and placing it in a large milk container. The damp CaCb emits acetylene (ethyne) gas which builds up inside the container. Then a spark is supplied, causing the pressurised gas bomb to blow the lid (or packing) off the milk jug."
posted by Jack Karaoke at 2:12 PM on June 5, 2016

A safer variety, as practiced by my nephews, is to replace the metal lid with an under-inflated soccer ball. Same satisfying sound, much less risky for the shooter and the bystanders.

(The country's name is The Netherlands, by the way. Holland is a region in the west.)
posted by monospace at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

By way of explanation why this is a Thing in Holland (yes, I know it's The Netherlands, I was born there, but in Holland, they also say Holland):

In Holland everybody rides a bicycle. Also, in Holland, there are many, many dairy farms (remember, cheese is a big thing in Holland, and all those black and white cows). Also, since Holland is at the latitude of Labrador, winter nights are long. But, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and Breugel's winter painting notwithstanding, it's not that cold and doesn't snow that much in the winter, so people ride their bicycles all year round. To work.

Ergo, the Dutch — what Netherlandish/Hollandish people are called in English for reasons outside the scope of this elucidation — the Dutch ride their bikes at night quite a bit. So, to avoid collisions with each other and with inanimate objects, they generally have high-power headlights on their bikes.

Now, until and through World War II, those headlights would have been carbide lanterns, fueled by the combustion of acetylene gas produced by the controlled combination of calcium carbide and water. In their day these were used for automobiles and motorcycles as well, and they are still sold for caving and other outdoor purposes. With their ubiquity in Holland, lots of people were familiar with the potential for explosions caused by lack of care in mixing the ingredients.

Also, until, through, and for quite a few years beyond World War II, all the milk collected from dairy farms in Holland went into those universally standard galvanized milk cans. But then, a new method, tank trucks, came along. Leaving a lot of milk cans looking for a new purpose in life, like, say, becoming planters. Meanwhile electric bike lamps lit by electricity from little dynamos driven by your bike tire were becoming the way to light your commute to and from work in the winter.

You can now see where this is leading. Milk cans looking for a new purpose, more exciting than planters, all over Holland. A population of cyclists familiar with the explosive power of calcium carbide and water mixed together. Put them together and you have carbidschieten [shooting, exploding or blowing up carbide].

At first, cabidschieten would have entailed blowing the actual metal lid off those milk cans. No doubt, this caused a little unintended damage here and there. The next thought was, tie a rope to the lid so it won't go farther than you intend (and is easier to haul back in for the next shot). This worked OK if you tied the other end of the rope to a solidly planted stake, but those who didn't think this through fully would just tie to the bottom end of the rope to the can. Bad idea. The lid would fly as far as the rope allowed, and then the can would fly off after it to parts unknown.

So, this is where the final evolutionary step of this pastime comes in (at least, the final one before those revolving milk can carousels). If you recall the masses of orange-clad fans at World Cup matches, you know that Holland is also a nation of very serious soccer players, who have lots of old soccer balls lying around. It turned out that an under-inflated soccer ball was just to thing to provide a "safe" alternative to the metal lid when carbidschieting. The bang is just as loud, but the projectile is non-lethal. There you have it — carbidschieten, perhaps the pinnacle of cultural achievement in a nation of soccer-playing, bicycle-riding dairy farmers with long winter nights. (Which explains why this takes place on New Year's Eve, not in mid-summer when it is light until 11 p.m. and there is beer to be drunk.)
posted by beagle at 4:19 PM on June 5, 2016 [53 favorites]

This is dangerous and ridiculous and stupid and I love it.
posted by mhoye at 5:27 PM on June 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

It beats the Miami tradition of shooting guns into the air.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:40 PM on June 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sure beats the Upper Peninsula pastime I heard of that involves industrial trash bags filled with acetylene/air mix, weather balloons and cherry bombs …

(NB: this is likely to be a very small group of now hearing-impaired people from the Upper Peninsula, not generally done all over that part of the state)

It also amazes me how easy carbide is to purchase in the US, when there are very few legitimate uses left for it.
posted by scruss at 6:39 PM on June 5, 2016

Same satisfying sound
Satisfying, huh.
I hate carbide shooting. The noise is overbearing. The video does not do that justice at all, it's so loud. I guess if you're there, you can prepare yourself, but if you're just sitting at home, or cycling/walking outside, it's scary even if you do not have any war related trauma. I can only imagine how terrifying this is if you have just fled a warzone. It's hard for hard of hearing people too. Last year an organization published a list of places where "official" carbide shootings are, so that hard of hearing people can try to escape the noise. Such a fun way to end the year!

And officially you can only do this on New Years Eve with a permit, if it's allowed at all, but of course people do it (on a smaller scale) for weeks before that too.

(yes, I know it's The Netherlands, I was born there, but in Holland, they also say Holland)
Yes, and other people in the Netherlands also think that sucks. There's absolutely nobody in the area where I live now who would say they live in Holland. Holland is where politicians live, who like the other provinces for recreation and natural gas, but who would prefer to ignore these provinces as much as possible otherwise. People here will sometimes say "Holland" when asked which country they're from in English because their English is poor or they assume English speaking people will not understand them otherwise or because it has become a tradition to yell "Holland! Holland!" at football tournaments, but in Dutch, they would never ever say Holland.
posted by blub at 12:26 AM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks to beagle for the back story and blub for the alternate view of the joy of carbidschieten. It's crazy that coal miners used to use carbide lamps, like they needed another potential explosive!
posted by asok at 5:16 AM on June 6, 2016

When I was a kid my Dad got me a Big Bang Cannon (Big Noise for Boys!) even though I was not a boy. It was lots of fun and was powered by carbide "Bangsite." I still have it but the carbide fuel has become difficult to find.

This is my Big Bang times about a gazillion, and young me would have found this wonderful. I now prefer less percussive entertainment, but this was fascinating and I have learned something new about Dutch folk and their culture. I swear I can smell the action from here.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:38 AM on June 6, 2016

yes, I know it's The Netherlands, I was born there, but in Holland, they also say Holland

No, only people from the Randstad say Holland and they should feel bad.

It's the Netherlands, not Holland, dammit !!
posted by Pendragon at 8:14 AM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Boy, you're in Dutch now!
posted by y2karl at 9:20 AM on June 6, 2016

I have learned something new about Dutch folk and their culture
To be clear: this is not a tradition in the entire country. It's mostly a tradition in the countryside in northern and eastern parts of the country (whereas most people live in the western part of the country). It's getting more popular though, partly because fireworks are getting more restricted and some local laws have not yet caught up to carbide, partly (I think) out of some sort of "culture war" idea where people feel that traditions are very important and we should cherish them and the people who have a problem with that can fuck off (video of a man who is angry about the carbide shooting near his home because he has young children, says that the shooters should not be inside the city limits - there are more video's like this, they are made by the shooters themselves, to ridicule the complainers.)

But despite all my irritation this video was still fun. I can admire the installation on a technical level, and you just cannot not laugh when you hear someone ask if anyone wants some pea soup while listening to Toto and watching huge machines that shoot footballs in the air.
posted by blub at 10:10 AM on June 6, 2016

Appreciate "Born to Run" playing in the background.
posted by Edward L at 1:03 PM on June 6, 2016

When I was a kid my Dad got me a Big Bang Cannon (Big Noise for Boys!) even though I was not a boy.

When I was around 12 (early 1970's) my uncle who is an amateur gunsmith machined his own on his lathe from brass bar stock. We lit it in our back yard numerous times one July 4th.

In retrospect, the neighbors must've been pissed-off as fuck, but strangely no one seemed to want to annoy the People with the Cannon.

New Jersey, REPRESENT!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:36 PM on June 6, 2016

Late to this, but I love our local tradition of carbidschieten. We only do it on new year's eve, two hours long, in the afternoon. Many folks from the neighbourhood gather in a field to eat pea soup and baked goods, drink mulled wine and watch the little kids who are wearing hearing protection and running around to fetch the soccer balls so they can be shot out of the milk can again.

Accidents are not unheard of, but they're rare. Carbid is generally treated with more respect than fireworks are and that is probably why.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:09 AM on June 13, 2016

« Older bang bang   |   The Outernet Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments