German New Year's Eve Traditions

Berlin's Oberbaumbrücke on New Year's Day (Flickr/Marcel Berkmann)

Berlin's Oberbaumbrücke on New Year's Day (Flickr/Marcel Berkmann)

As around the world, people in Germany like to celebrate New Year's Eve, or Silvester as it's known in German (after the Catholic pope and saint Silvester, whose feast day is on 31st December), with the usual mix of parties, a countdown and subsequent fireworks.

However, there are some traditions that you may not be aware of.

1. An INSANE amount of fireworks on the street

While the sale of fireworks is restricted to the days of 29th-31st of December, the setting off of fireworks often tends to be out of control.

In every residential area across the country, heading outside just after midnight you'll be greeted by a barrage of crackers and rockets.

Many families in the UK are used to setting off their fireworks in their back garden, being sure to stand back at a safe distance when a rocket is lit. In Germany, it is every man, woman and child for themselves - people shooting rockets from their hands, down the road, into the neighbour's back garden, and so on.

This video was taken in one busy street in Berlin but after around five New Year's Eves in Germany, I can tell you from personal experience it is pretty much the same everywhere else!

2. Dinner for One

A classic comedy by British entertainer Freddie Frinton has become a mainstay of a German New Year's Eve.

The sketch features a butler becoming increasingly tipsy while toasting on behalf of the elderly aristocrat Miss Sophie's absent friends.

While it began as a theatre variety performance in the United Kingdom, it transferred over to Germany in the early 1960s, when several versions were filmed (though unfortunately the most well-known version, recorded by NDR in 1963, is blocked in Germany on YouTube).

 

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3. Bleigießen - lead pouring

A fun tradition at a lot of Silvester parties is to pour a spoonful of hot lead into a bowl of water. This lead is then 'read' like tea leaves to reveal what the pourer can expect from the coming year.

Interpretations of the poured figure can vary wildly - did the lead form an eagle shape? You're going to travel by plane a lot in 2015! Did it form a heart? Maybe you'll find the love of your life!

Pretty much no-one attaches any significance predictions made by  lead pouring but it makes for a fun game to play with friends and family.

4. Raclette and fondue

Many people like to eat raclette or fondue during Silvester celebrations.

While you can eat raclette (often where you place ingredients, including cheese, into a metal tray to be toasted under a special raclette grill) or fondue (cheese melted in a bowl for dipping bread and other bitesized food into) all year round, it's particularly common at the end of the year.

Wherever you are and however you are celebrating, This Week in Germany wishes you a very happy New Year's Eve... und ein frohes neues Jahr!