German New Year’s Traditions


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Every Expat should at least once partake in German New Year’s traditions.

Activities together with family and friends on German New Year’s Traditions are particularly popular. This includes certain forms of food, such as fondue, in which pieces of meat are cooked in oil in a saucepan directly on the table and eaten with sauces and side dishes. Raclette, which comes from Switzerland, is even more popular, in which a wide variety of ingredients are individually baked with cheese in small pans. This type of dinner is so good for New Year’s Eve because it allows you to eat and chat for hours while waiting for midnight together.

More traditional German New Year’s Eve dishes are mostly based on people’s desire to have good luck and success in the New Year and to leave everything bad behind. For example, on New Year’s Eve in Germany people used to put a scale of the carp that was put on the table in the evening in the wallet, in the hope that it would always help you to make enough money in the coming year. Lentils were popular on New Year’s Eve, as their shape, which is reminiscent of small coins, was seen as a symbol of the hoped-for prosperity. That was hidden behind many German New Year’s Eve customs, the longing for happiness, health and a good livelihood.

Evil Out, Happiness in – The Meaning of German New Year’s Traditions

Fireworks, torches and candles, which have always been lit in large numbers on New Year’s Eve, were supposed to drive away evil spirits and bring good things. Not only the light, but also the noise symbolically served this purpose. Hammered on the villages in Westphalia? Another old New Year’s Eve custom was for family or friends to drink midnight sparkling wine – in the past it was often? Instead of champagne – everyone drank from a glass that one threw over his shoulder and broke. This custom was symbolic of the community of people who were supposed to bring luck with the broken pieces.

The Same Procedure as Every Year, James!

Perhaps you are familiar with the television program, which in many German households is just as much a part of New Year’s Eve as champagne and fireworks? “The 90th birthday or Dinner for One” is the name of the 18-minute sketch by the English comedian Freddie Frinton, which the North German broadcaster NDR has been broadcasting annually on numerous channels throughout Germany since 1963. The show was translated into many languages, and in Germany? And in 1988 listed as the world’s most repeated television production in the Guinness Book of Records. In England, “Dinner for One” and the famous quote “The same procedure as every year, James!”, Which almost everyone in Germany knows and associates with New Year’s Eve, are almost unknown.

New Year’s Eve Today: Lucky Charms and “Bread Instead of Firecrackers”

Even today, various lucky symbols are particularly present in Germany around the turn of the year: Typical include small pigs, for example made from marzipan, chimney sweeps or four-leaf clovers that are given away on New Year’s Eve. However, many people who fire rockets and light sparklers on New Year’s Eve probably no longer think of driving away evil spirits.

The purpose of the fireworks and the millions of dollars associated with it have been criticized again and again for decades, especially since the fireworks waste often pollutes the streets for days after New Year’s Eve and missiles that are not properly ignited cause accidents every year. The initiative “Bread instead of Böller? “, A cooperation between the Federation of German Catholic Youth in the Munich region and the Evangelical Youth Munich, which collects donations on New Year’s Eve and thus supports charitable projects in developing countries.

An old but still valued New Year’s Eve custom in Germany is that of pouring lead, which many people do after midnight. When pouring lead, small pieces of lead or tin are melted over a candle in a pan or spoon. The molten lead is poured into cold water, where it immediately becomes cold and rigid and takes on a new shape. The resulting structures or figures are then interpreted – with the help of one’s own imagination or a special template – as symbols and predictions for what the new year will bring for the respective person.

The origin of New Year’s Eve

Since the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, December 31st has been the last day of the year. This day is dedicated to the Pope on New Year’s Eve and was named in his honor. New Year’s Eve was Pope from 314 to 335, and Christianity was introduced as the state religion under his pontificate. Pope Silvester I died on December 31, 335 in Rome.

Fireworks and New Year’s Eve Bangs

In many European countries it is customary to greet the New Year with pompous fireworks. Whether loud firecrackers or spectacular light rockets: The fireworks in the sky are simply part of it. The custom originally comes from the ancient Germans who wanted to drive away evil spirits with noise and drums at the turn of the year. Today this custom has been replaced by bangers and rockets and mainly serves to enjoy the extraordinary sky spectacle for the New Year.

Rituals and Traditions

In Germany we have quite a few traditions that shorten the hours until midnight on New Year’s Eve year after year. Customs that supposedly predict the future and happiness for the coming year are particularly popular. A popular variant of this is lead pouring. Pieces of lead are heated over a flame and, after liquefying, thrown into a bowl of water. The resulting forms are assigned to various figures, which predict the future with their meaning.

Questioning a pendulum or horoscopes that predict the coming year are also particularly popular on New Year’s Eve. Many people also pass the time until midnight with crackers and table fireworks.

Another tradition in Germany is the legendary TV show “Dinner for one” with the old lady Miss Sophie and her butler James, who gets drunk more and more during the New Year’s Eve dinner.

Typical Drinks and New Year’s Eve Dishes

For many Germans, raclette or fondue is an integral part of New Year’s Eve. But also “Berliner” – also called donuts – are a popular dish with us on December 31st. The dough bags filled with jam or other delicacies are decorated with special glazes on this day and sold at every bakery. In some parts of Germany, lentil dishes are also very popular. You should ensure financial prosperity in the New Year.

When it comes to drinks, the Feuerzangenbowle or New Year’s punch are particularly popular. Another tradition in this country is the glass of sparkling wine or champagne at midnight, with which the new year is often toasted with the phrase “Happy New Year”. Prosit comes from the Latin and means something like “may it succeed”. Afterwards, friends and family are congratulated and messages are usually sent by phone or cell phone.

New Year’s Eve All Over The World

Other countries other manners. In all countries, New Year’s Eve is associated with different customs and traditions.

In Spain, for example, as a lucky tradition, a bunch of grapes is eaten every time the bell hits, making a total of twelve. In Greece, on the other hand, you play games of chance such as poker or card games that are played for money all evening.

In Brazil people celebrate in white clothes, which are supposed to symbolize purity and a new beginning. However, the women wear red underwear, hoping to increase the happiness of love in the New Year. In addition, candles are distributed in the sand and flowers are placed in the sea to honor the sea goddess Yemanja.

In China, according to the Chinese calendar, the new year does not take place until January 21st. Here it is customary for single women to throw mandarins into the sea in the hope of attracting the man for life. In addition, the houses are cleaned and the windows are opened on New Year’s Eve so that happiness can find its way into the house.

Michelle Halterman
Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.



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