December 31st we had dinner together at six in the evening. There was meat, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, and gravy, and champagne to drink and use to toast the upcoming year.
The TV was turned on after dinner and we watched the pre-New Year shows together on the two couches in the living room. The shows ranged from music performances of popular music to peoples dancing to knocking down piñatas to all the bloopers from the years news and films. The best of the latter was an Estonian news reporter stopping a woman on the street and asking her a long complex question in rapid Estonian, and then the woman immediately responds, "Thank you, I'm visiting from America and I have no idea what you just said." At which point I burst out laughing at something that strongly resembled me at the beginning of the year.
Just before midnight we put on hats and coats and went out into the street to meet up just down the road with a couple other families. The sky overhead was dark with one horizon colored the ever present shade of orange from what I can only assume is light pollution from the city.
Distant fireworks popped quietly along the orange strip of clouds. From the opposite horizon reddish orange lanterns drifted upwards one at a time from behind the trees. They glided over the houses and into the distance. After a brief struggle with the wind, we managed to light a multitude of sparklers that ecstatic children and teenagers whirled about.
With a crack, fireworks began to explode around us as the people on the next street over began to send them up from the driveways and backyards. Then light cascaded overhead from behind us and I turned to see the people a couple doors down setting them off from their driveway. As I spun to take in the colors blasting away in the dark heavens, I noticed a box sparking just down the road and soon enough fireworks began to whistle upwards to explode right overhead.
The fireworks from those three source seemed to war across the sky overhead to the backdrop of swirling and bursting color of the fireworks along the horizon. The rockets shrieked and screamed blasting our eardrums with waves of concussive sound. The whole sky lit up with dazzling color as the ground was covered in smoke the reeked of rotten eggs.
As fireworks battled for attention in the darkness, the New Year arrived with cheers, hugs, and beer (or wine, I really don't know). Everyone shared enthusiastic hugs and handshakes, drunk on excitement and the spectacle of the explosions overhead.
More sparklers flared, illuminating the dirt road for short intervals before fading away. Dozens of boxes of fireworks went shooting into the night sky in just under an hour, at which point they all but stopped completely. There were a few to keep going as people fought to expend all the ones they had bought for the holiday.
I now realize exactly why I kept seeing fireworks stall everywhere I went. New Years is definitely a holiday that Estonians take celebrating seriously. It was a like a canopy of ever-changing light and color or one of those overhead IMAX theaters.
We also set of a couple of on the ground spinning fireworks, some of which only flared off and on in such a way that left spots on my vision afterwards. One man had a hand held firework tube which he used to send up four more fireworks, but his hand dipped on the second, causing it to explode a couple meters above the ground.
After all of it stopped, some of the neighbors came back to the house for more alcohol.