5 Ways to Celebrate German New Year’s Eve

1. First of all, in Germany, New Year’s Eve is referred to as “Silvester.” When I first heard this I kept thinking everyone was talking about a cat, but actually this is because December 31st is the Catholic day of Saint Sylvester and the anniversary of his death. So don’t be confused when you’re asked how you’re spending your Silvesterabend.

Pope Sylvester I portrayed turning a dragon out of the Roman Forum and reviving its victims.
Pope Sylvester I portrayed turning a dragon out of the Roman Forum and reviving its victims.Maso di Banco - http://latin.bestmoodle.net/media/silvdragon.jpg

2. Grab a good luck charm! In Germany, symbols of good luck include the widely accepted four leaf clovers and ladybugs as well as the more regional pigs and chimney sweeps. It is traditional to give gifts of good luck to your loved ones and surround yourself with good luck charms on New Year’s Eve. One superstition also says that on New Year’s Day you should never eat any kind of bird because if you do, all of your good luck will fly right out the window.

Marzipan pig available for sale in the Alpine Market
Marzipan pig available for sale in the Alpine Market

3. Get Loud! The New Year’s Eve celebrations in Germany have evolved from ancient pagan rituals of warding off evil spirits. Those ancient pagans believed that making loud noises would scare away the demons and keep them away for the coming year. Those ancient pagans also worried that the long winter nights meant that the sun might not return in the New Year. So they made it a point to light up the night sky with fire to encourage the sun’s return. Modern Germans combine both noise and light with elaborate fireworks displays; the grandest takes place every year at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Öffentliche Silvesterparty am Brandenburger Tor
Öffentliche Silvesterparty am Brandenburger Tor http://silvester-all-inclusive.de/silvesterpartys/berlin/brandenburger-tor

4. Get the lead out! No, I don’t mean play “Stairway to Heaven”; Germans have a New Year’s tradition to predict what the next year will bring. They melt small pellets of lead over a fire and then drop it into a bowl of water. When the lead cools, the shape it takes is a symbol of what the new year holds in store. For instance a heart means you will find love, and a flower means new friendships will blossom. This tradition is called Bleigiessen or “lead pouring”.

Bleigiessen set available at Alpine Toys
Bleigiessen set available at Alpine Toys

5. And finally, prepare yourself for some obscure British comedy. So obscure in fact that few British people even know about it. Every year on New Year’s Eve German television networks broadcast a British sketch from 1963 called, “Dinner for One.” The sketch is about a birthday party for a 90-year-old woman who has outlived her dear friends. Her doting butler played by Freddie Frinton appeases his madam by playing the parts of all of her friends and consequently becoming increasing intoxicated with every toast. The show has become the most popular program in television history being broadcast over 230 times.

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