Whereas an earlier post discussed the differences in Christmas traditions in Britain and Germany, this one focuses on the New Year’s Eve traditions.
Both countries certainly know how to enjoy New Year’s Eve. That is the wonderful thing about living in Europe: the more diversity the better, as far as I am concerned.
Happy New Year / Frohes Neues Jahr!
|Britain: New Year’s Eve||Germany: Silvester|
|Party Time: When the old year is about to end and the new one is about to dawn, Britons celebrate like most people around the world. Parties and fun are the order of the day, often dressed-up for the occasion (e.g. dinner jackets and bow ties for men). They often go to the local pub to celebrate.||Silvester Ball: Germans celebrate the change of year just as noisily and merrily at the “Silvester Ball” with the usual eating, drinking, dancing and singing. The 31st of December is the day of the Feast of Pope Sylvester I, the day that he died, hence the reason for the name in German.|
|Big Ben and Auld Lang Syne: When Big Ben strikes midnight, people across the country cross arms and link hands with the nearest person, regardless of whether they are complete strangers or not, and sing “Auld Lang Syne” (by the Scottish poet Robert Burns), which refers to friendships and loves in “times gone by”.||Sekt und Berliner: The focal point of the New Year’s Eve celebrations is the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin and the midnight fireworks. Germans toast the New Year with a glass of Sekt (German sparkling wine) or champagne, as well as a doughnut (Berliner).|
|Eating and drinking: There is much drinking, especially of Champagne to see out the year and bring in the new one. Shortbread is a feature of Hogmanay, sometimes served with cheese. Whisky of course, if also part of the tradition in Scotland.||Essen und Trinken: It is common to enjoy a Feuerzangenbowle or a Punch Bowl. This is a traditional German alcoholic drink where a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire, allowing it to drip into mulled wine (e.g. red wine, oranges, lemons, cinnamon and cloves). Feuerzangenbowle is also the name of a very popular film from 1944. A recent tradition is Raclette, an electric grill which is used to melt individual portions of cheese on small trays (or use a grilling area on top) and each person adds their preferred combination of seasonings, vegetables and meats. Another option is cheese fondue. Raclette and fondue are both Swiss inventions which have been gratefully taken-up.|
|Fireworks: Fireworks used to be seen only during Bonfire or Guy Fawkes Night but this is beginning to change with fireworks being let out at the stroke of midnight. The fireworks are thought to drive away evil spirits.||Feuerwerke: The absolute highlight of the New Year’s Eve celebrations is the fireworks display at midnight. Almost every household comes out, no matter how cold, to let off fireworks, bangers and generally burn through a lot of money. It cannot be described; it has to be experienced.|
|Other traditions: Parts of England: at midnight, people open the back door (to let the old year out) and ask the first dark haired man to be seen to come through the front door carrying salt, coal and bread. The following year everyone will have enough to eat (bread), enough money (salt) and be warm enough (coal).Hogmanay: the celebration is derived from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year’s Eve. Hogmanay can last a day or longer! There is also a tradition of “first footing” is observed. The first person to set foot in a home affects the fortunes of everyone who lives there. Strangers are thought to bring good luck.Nos Galan: the Welsh also let out the old year and bring in the new but if the first visitor is a woman and a man opens the door it is considered bad luck. The same applies if the first man to cross the threshold is a red head.||Bleigießen: Bleigießen (pouring lead into cold water) involves telling fortunes by the shapes made by the molten lead.The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One: Many choose to spend “Silvester” at home watching “Dinner for One” on TV. This is a short black and white comedy sketch from the 1920s has become the number 1 New Year’s tradition in Germany. Although it was recorded in English, with British actors and has attained cult status in Germany (and elsewhere), it is largely unknown in English speaking countries. New Year’s Eve without watching Dinner for One is simply not done.|
|New Year’s Resolutions: New Year’s resolutions are part and parcel of the new year process. They are basically things that people have resolved to do to make their lives better or different, the most common being to lose weight, to drink less, to stop smoking, etc.||Neujahrsvorsätzen: As in Britain, this is an established tradition in Germany.|
|Happy New Year!||Frohes Neues Jahr / einen “Guten Rutsch”!|
Ricardo Pinto, AngloDeutsch™ Blog, www.anglodeutsch.eu