On New Year's Eve, the entire Germany resonates with sounds of numerous firecrackers and the greeting of 'Einen guten Rutsch', which means 'a good slide' into the coming year. December 31st, the New Year's Eve, is known as Silvester, throughout Germany and is celebrated by hosting a grand feast in honor of Saint Sylvester. He is credited with many great acts in the 4th century, when he lived in Germany. He is acknowledged as the only Pope, who had the honor of meeting the recognized members of the family of Jesus. Besides this, he is also recognized as the one who baptized Constantine the Great, the Roman Ruler, and worked extensively for the poor and underprivileged. The day sees huge family get-togethers over sumptuous meals and in exhilarating festive mood, with free flowing booze, song and dance.
On New Year's Eve, as the countdown to midnight begins, the excitement of people throughout Germany is palpable and as the clock strikes twelve, the greeting of 'Prosit Neujahr!, Cheers to the New Year!' reverberates across the country. The sky gets painted with unimaginable shades of colors exploding insistently from numerous fireworks. The sounds of noisy firecrackers mixed with ringing of countless church bells make the entire atmosphere ethereal and celebratory. Streets are filled with merry revelers, singing and dancing to welcome the New Year. The capital of the country, Berlin, witnesses the largest of public New Year celebrations in all of Europe, with a gathering of a whooping million people at the Brandenburg Gate. People can be seen setting off fireworks across streets, holding bottles and glasses of champagne or sparkling wine in hand, while wishing one and all 'Ein glueckliches neues Jahr', which means 'A happy New Year'. This greeting is used by people over the next few days, whenever they meet a person for the first time in the New Year.
Customs and Traditions
The Germans surely love and cherish their customs and traditions. There are various interesting as well as intriguing beliefs related to the New Year celebrations, which continue to be practiced till today. Some of the most fascinating ones are mentioned below.
The German customs dictate that at the confluence of the two years, the boundaries between the spirit and real world become hazy; therefore, a lot of noise and light should be made in order drive away evil spirits. It is also thought that it is the time when mystical abilities to foresee future is available. Thus, fortune forecasting is one of the most loved customs of Silvester. To do so, people pour small pieces of melted lead in cold water and based on the shape it hardens, make predictions. For instance, if it hardens in the shape of a flower, it signifies that one will have many new friendships in the coming year. Similarly, a circle symbolizes marriage, a rocket shape predicts a long journey, and so forth. This custom is known as Bleigiessen.
Another fascinating tradition is the viewing of the 14 minute black and white TV program, A Dinner for One. This old 1963 German production of a 1920s British slapstick comedy is shown on every New Year's Eve and has unbelievable fan following throughout Germany. Different generations sit together and watch this program every year. Besides this, another endearing tradition of New Year celebrations includes drinking of Feuerzangenbowle, which is basically Gluehwein, mulled wine that has an absolutely fiery taste and is the favored drink along with the sparkling wine at New Year's Eve parties and dinners.
Germans love their food and there are many special delicacies that are a must cook at New Year's Eve dinners. It is believed that one should not completely empty his/her plate before midnight and leave some residue of each dish tasted on it as this would insure that one remains well fed throughout the next year. Besides lucky foods, there are some unlucky ones as well that, as per German customs, should never be served on this occasion. These include all things that have feathers, as it is believed that they cause good luck to fly away.
The lucky foods served at vivacious New Year's parties include delectable dishes made of fish, especially carp, and to keep one of its scales in the wallet is said to bring abundance of wealth to the owner. Pea, Bean, Lentil or Carrot soups are eaten with great delight on this occasion, as they are believed to attract blessings and wealth. Sauerkraut is a sumptuous dish made of cabbage strips. The larger the number of strips one eats, the greater his/her fortune would be in the coming year. However, the central and most important dish served on the day remains Glueck Sweine, a 'Good Luck Pig'. It can be served in any form, be it Schnitzel, Pork Roast, or sausages. It is believed to be the harbinger of guaranteed luck and good fortune in the coming year.
The celebrations, customs and traditions related to New Year revelry in Germany are quite charming as well as remarkable.