Just across the bridge, shooting is prohibited in Sparendam – but no one is obligated to do so

While it’s been ticking away for hours in Haarlem and Amsterdam, it’s still quiet in Sparendam at 10 p.m. The many houses on the embankment are shrouded in darkness. Behind a lighted window is a bowl of olibolene on the table, and behind another a man is bending over, centered on a shuffleboard. In the distance, a star bursts out from the light occasionally, and most explosions are far away as well.

It’s crackling on a one street corner. Jimmy Mulder (almost 13) and his football buddies have dominated this crossroads. Jimmy and two of his friends are going to blow the air for over three hundred euros tonight. They have a lot of fireworks that have to start early, otherwise you won’t come. The nitrates, the donuts, the thunder you shoot out of reach.

“Utensils are the best,” says Jamie. They had to save up pretty hard for it, though, at mom and dad’s expense. They are glad that it is possible again. “Last year, I got corona, and then we set off little fireworks for the kids in the park.”

Split between east and west

This group of friends lives in Spaarndam-Oost, the new part of the twin village of Spaarndam. This year, Jimmy has seen more boys from Harlem here, he says. Friends of friends of friends. “They come to us because shooting fireworks isn’t allowed in Harlem.”

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Since Spaarndam-Oost has been part of the municipality of Haarlemmermeer since 2019, there is no ban on fireworks here, unlike a few hundred metres. West Sparendam, the old village center, has been part of Haarlem Municipality since 1927.

Someone threw a piece of firecrackers into the street from a passing motorcyclist. Friends are angry. “One of us just got fireworks on his leg,” Jamie says. They themselves pay close attention – and otherwise do their parents, who watch from the doorway with glass in hand. When a shower of sparks rains down on the spectators, the teens rush off to say the wind blew the pot. Reasonable explanation, because there are still strong winds.

“Luke, get out of there!” Esther Fink, 47, one of the mothers watching, shouts at a boy standing too close to the fire. “They remain a village,” she laughs, “and we all know them by name.”

Banning fireworks is the first time that such a sharp difference has been seen between the two parts of the twin village of Sparendam. “I think it’s ridiculous that you could cut a village in two like that,” says Esther. You usually don’t notice much municipal division within a village. It is one village with one village festival and one village council. Children at school together.

“If you walk three meters, it is allowed”

After midnight, explosions came from all sides. Stars of light explode here and there in the sky. Just across the bridge, in Sparendam West, a group of young men with a few pots of fireworks is doing homage to the rest of an almost empty street. Is it always this quiet here? No, nobody says. Yes, says the other. The fact that it is quieter here than on the other side is that many people are far away.

Or because more people live in Sparndam-East.

Or because most people in Spaarndam-West are a little older. Interpretations vary, but what doesn’t come out for sure is the ban on fireworks in place here. They unanimously find this prohibition absurd. “If you walk three meters further, it is permissible.”

Fireworks over Spaarendam East© Photo: Michelle Van Bergen

In fact, if you walk five hundred meters the other way, you can do it again, says Charlotte Kosters (53). “This belongs to Velserbroek, which in turn falls within the scope of Velsen municipality.” Along with Annette Beerepoot (53), you watch one of the few other groups setting off fireworks in this part of the village. “We took a look,” Charlotte says, “If someone hadn’t had fireworks, we might have done them behind the house.” But everyone does it on the street.

Harlem politics

On the edge of the village you have a beautiful view of Haarlem: a big fireworks display, with red, green and white circles full of stars. “I don’t think there were ever many fireworks,” says Annette. In this way, banning fireworks is a joke. If you don’t force, don’t do it.” She believes this is typical Harlem politics.

As far as Charlotte is concerned, the whole of Sparendam would have been added to Haarlem at the time of the municipal reorganization. The village council also called for it. But not all Sparendamers agreed, explains Annette, who lives in Haarlemmerled herself. Before 2019, Sparendam-Ost, together with Havvig-Zwanenburg and Haarlemmerlid, belonged to Haarlemmerlid and Sparnwood municipality. “People who lived there longer were opposed to separating Sparendam Ost from those other nuclei,” says Annette. “In short, you’re not doing it right with reclassification.”

An hour into New Year’s Eve, Charlotte and Annette left for the warm living room, dancing and singing. Ahead, the cardboard leftovers of Jimmy and his friends’ party were even smoky. Still knocks from Harlem.

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