How long can we light Easter fires? Mayor of Emmen sees a bright future for the tradition

There is now a clear guideline for organizing an Easter fire in Drenthe, but even Mayor Eric van Oosterhout foresees a difficult future for the tradition.

The rules to continue organizing Easter fires were an initiative of Emmer mayor Eric van Oosterhout last year. It created clarity: nitrogen calculations showed that most Easter fires in Drenthe can take place this year. At the same time, Van Oosterhout predicts that the tradition has had its day. “Every year I say: guys, just enjoy it.”

Last year, Van Oosterhout took charge of the discussion surrounding Easter fires. There was a lot of uncertainty: regulations no longer allowed exceeding nitrogen emissions. Could Easter bonfires still take place and if so: who paid for the costs (for example, the nitrogen calculations)?

‘Drentse line’

Van Oosterhout proposed a ‘Drentse line’: a clear guideline regarding the role and responsibility of the province, municipality and organization. In consultation with then deputy Hans Kuipers, it was stated that events from before 1994 could continue anyway. If not, a nitrogen calculation must follow. Municipalities help the organization with the costs.

Each municipality is free to subsequently impose additional rules and conditions. “It is a guideline that we as mayors have discussed with each other. I’m not suddenly it Head of Easter Fires Drenthe ”, laughs Van Oosterhout.


The municipality of Midden-Drenthe sent all organizers a letter last month with additional conditions: the budget for Easter fires will be used to make the nitrogen calculations, meaning that organizations will now have to clean up the ash remains themselves. The municipality did that first. Midden-Drenthe also writes that an ‘ecological quick scan ‘ is not necessary if the Easter bump is built up in no more than two days. Such a scan determines whether an activity is disruptive to plants and animals.

Harry Veen is the organizer of the Easter fire in Westerbork, the largest in the municipality. Veen is not happy with the new rules. “Building up in two days is worthless, isn’t it? The fun is already over. And there are more colleagues who say that.”

Social importance

Van Oosterhout understands that sentiment, but warns that regulations could become stricter. “I feel a political wind blowing, which makes me suspect that you will get into some kind of fireworks discussion with the Easter fires. And if those rules do not come from The Hague, then they will come from Brussels.”

An Easter fire is more than lighting a pile of wood, is the opinion of the Drenthe municipalities. They attach importance to tradition because it also has a social importance. “I understand the importance of nature, but it is a trade-off: every municipality in Drenthe would like to preserve this tradition, because you see people in a meadow who speak and encounter each other. And if we started lighting an Easter fire every week…”

Open hearth

For Van Oosterhout, this one-off nature is a big difference from a daily activity. And that aspect needs to be looked at. “I understand that we look at the burden on nature, but look at the fireplaces, for example. Not that I want to ban the fireplace, but let’s talk about it: if the neighbor with a respiratory disease suffers from it, how can you help each other? I say every year: guys, just enjoy it. But I do wonder whether we will save the environment by banning Easter fires.”