New Years Eve is coming.

Here in Germany, you can only buy fireworks this week — the few days between Christmas and New Years. New Years Eve is the one time it’s socially acceptable to set off fireworks. (Or so I’m told. If Germany advances in the World Cup this summer, I imagine that rule might get bent.)

Is this just Germany, or is it true elsewhere? Also, is there any country in Europe that has completely banned fireworks? That would be understandable — every New Years Eve sees an unhappy harvest of lost fingers and eyes — but also kind of dismal.

And while we’re on the subject: which European country has the loudest New Years? I can’t imagine anyone is louder than Serbia; when we lived in Belgrade, sleep was impossible until long past midnight. The Serbs love their fireworks, and they set them off in the streets with a cheerful disregard for safety or good sense. It’s not an Eastern European thing, though — the Romanians like fireworks too, but they’re a lot more restrained about it.

Also, I’m thinking this is the year I’ll take my little boys (ages 8 and 6) to the store and let them pick out a couple of fireworks, which I will then ignite for them in our back yard just before bed time on the 31st. Too young, or about right? What think you, Europeans?