This New Year’s Eve “only” 874 cars burned in France. A sordid tradition that doesn’t seem to be going away

For some strange reason, at human being likes to celebrate some events with fire. Whether it is the summer solstice, with the bonfires of San Juan in Europe, or that of the Independence of the United States, on July 4, with fireworks.

The same happens in France on July 14 – the symbolic day of the Revolution – and on December 31. Except that on the last night of the year, fireworks are replaced by the more or less indiscriminate burning of cars on the street.

It is not a tradition of which they are very proud in the neighboring country, but it is something that has been done since the 90s. This past year-end, a total of 874 vehicles were set on fire across France on New Years Eve.

But with coronavirus-related restrictions, that number is lower than in previous years, according to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

A total of 1,316 cars were set on fire in 2019, according to a press release issued by the Interior Ministry last Saturday. However, more people were detained for questioning than in previous years, with 441 detained compared to 376 in 2019.

Why are so many cars burning?

firefighters putting out a burning car

The phenomenon of car burning became more visible in the early 1990s, especially in the Strasbourg suburbs. It happened in what in France they call the cited, dormitory cities with a high unemployment rate and that in some cases are authentic ghettos.

Soon, the media realized that it was also happening in other cited From France, from Paris to Marseille, burning a car to celebrate or protest had become normal.

As for why, there is no single answer. The main reason governments and the media coincide is to draw attention and show your anger. It is the most common explanation, crushed by the interior ministers and repeated almost in all the media.

For some it is the sign of a youth in disagreement with the institutions, for others it is an unjustifiable crime or boredom transformed into vandalism, while others believe that it is a manifestation of legitimate anger, etc. Nor are sociologists lacking to say that it is just for fun.

Over time, some people have realized that New Years Eve and July 14 were good dates to burn a car that no longer works and collect insurance compensation. If the fire occurs on a designated date, insurers pay without looking too hard. It is considered that a third of cars burned on New Years Eve they are actually insurance scams.

Photos | Kollinger and Alain Bachellier

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Lenny Li

I started to play with tech since middle school. Smart phones, laptops and gadgets are all about my life. Besides, I am also a big fan of Star War. May the force be with you!

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