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article imageMore than 1,000 vehicles set ablaze on New Year's Eve in France

By Natty Walker     Jan 3, 2014 in World
Every culture has its own special way of celebrating the start of a new year. In France, that celebration often includes citizens setting strangers' cars on fire.
This year, only 1,067 vehicles were destroyed by arson in France on New Year's Eve. According to The Telegraph, this is a significant decrease from the amount of cars that were set ablaze last year.
In 2012, New Year's Day was met with 1,193 reports of torched cars in France. The number of damaged vehicles this year reportedly decreased by 10 percent. On Wednesday, Interior Minister Manuel Valls stated in a press conference this was a "positive result." He also expressed his regret there were three deaths in separate knife attacks in Paris, eastern, and southern France on the holiday. Valls said this was "one of the year's most important events in terms of public security."
Young revelers have adopted the act of car torching as a New Year's tradition in France. It began in the northeastern city of Strasbourg, which is close to the France's border with Germany. Strasbourg hosts thousands of tourists during Christmastime because of its famed Christmas market. Setting vehicles on fire started to become an alarming trend in the 1990s in Strasbourg. It has since spread throughout France, but mostly contained to disadvantaged suburbs near populous cities.
Strasbourg's regional trend gained national attention in 1997. French media began investigating the event after a spree of car burnings. Soon, local youth started to compete for the spotlight. A local government official stated, at the time, there was a "correlation between the media focus on the phenomenon and the rise in incidents." Now, 17 years later, the violent tradition not only hasn't been defeated, it has gained in popularity.
New Year's Eve isn't the only holiday in France that includes widespread vehicle arson. Many underprivileged youth set fire to cars on Bastille Day, France's July 14th national holiday. It is considered a form of protest against the government for the lack of opportunities for people from poor communities. Urban unrest increased drastically in France in 2005, which contributed to the spread of vehicle arson as a form of protest.
Other New Year's Eve customs around the world include New York City's infamous ball drop, throwing furniture out of windows in South Africa, running around the block with empty suitcases in Colombia, throwing bread against the wall in Ireland, and throwing dishes at the doors of neighbors' homes in Denmark.
More about France, New Year's Eve, Vehicles, Arson, Fire
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