January 6, 2013

Silvester or New Year’s Eve made in Germany


* New Year’s Eve in German * Traditional food in New Year’s Eve in Germany * Fireworks and firecrackers in Berlin * British comedy: Dinner for one *

Chocolate Reichstag by Chocolaterie Fassbender & Rausch
As every year we spent the last and first days of the New Year with my in-laws in Berlin. Therefore I missed Silvester in Munich and so this blog entry is going to be about New Year’s Eve in Germany in general and not so specific about Munich.

For a start let me clarify that in German: New Year’s Eve is called Silvester in honor of the IV century catholic saint and pope Silvester I. However they do not say happy Silvester to wish a happy New Year, instead they use expressions such as:


  • Frohes Neues Jahr” or shorter and more casual “Frohes Neues
  • Alles Gute für 2013”:  (literally) all the best for 2013
  • Einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr”: (literally) good slide into the New Year;
  • Prosit Neujahr”: cheers while toasting for the New Year is also very common

Besides the wishes, Silvester also means: food, fireworks, firecrackers and an old British short comedy.

FOOD: Fondue, raclette, carp and goose are typical dishes for the last dinner of the year. My mother in-law always prepares meat fondue one year and raclette the following one.  As I understand, they are both Swiss traditions but have been happily adopted by the Germans at New Year’s Eve.

Fish section in a German supermarket
Also around Christmas time and before Silvester there are plenty of carps in the fish sections of all German supermarkets. The reason? This freshwater fish is very popular as main dish in the last dinner. In German it is called “Silvesterkarpf”. Also the “Neuejahrgans”: New Year’s Goose has a place in some Silvester’s fests.  

And finally: soup (in all its forms and varieties: every man to his taste), sometimes seafood and of course sweets, cakes and chocolates are always present in the last dinner of the year, washed down with “Sekt”: champagne or sparkling wine.

FIREWORKS & FIRECRACKERS: According to an article in the German economic newspaper Handelsblatt: Germany has spent 115 million euros in fireworks (“Feuerwerk”) and firecrackers (“Böller“) to welcome the 2013.

Right after the “Prosit Neujahr” the noise party starts in most of the German cities. In Berlin this is not due to the official fireworks at the "Branderburger Tor" (Gate) but mostly because of the private celebrations with firecrackers  (“Silvesterböllern) on the streets, parks, from the outside areas of bars and restaurants, some even fire them from their own balconies and terraces.

It is beautiful to see and very noisy to hear. I support this tradition and I hope they do not forbid it in the future despite its big disadvantage: the huge amount of garbage that is generated. And I repeat HUGE AMOUNT OF GARBAGE.

And what happens with all the mess left after these private celebrations on the streets?

The city cleaning services rushed to leave the key shopping avenues spotless on the morning of January 1st. Other streets need to wait a day or even two to be wiped. For example: the Ku’damm (Kurfürstendamm), which is one of the most important avenues and shopping streets in Berlin (I would say equivalent to what the Kaufingerstraße or Maximilianstraße is in Munich) was immaculate on the first day of the year, but other areas further from the hot spots for tourists and shops had to wait a day for the cleaning services.

DINNER FOR ONE: this 1963 British skit in black and white is a German tradition on New Year’s Eve. The sketch is about the celebration of Miss Sophie’s 90th birthday (in German the comedy is also called “Geburtstag” = Birthday). The dinner table is set for some guests and she is sitting at the head of the table, while the butler James pours wine in all the glasses… to learn more: watch it in YouTube. I do not have an explanation why it is repeated every New Year’s Eve in the German television. Every local I asked, knows it and confirms that it is a tradition for them. When I ask why? They are unable to give a reason, they simply say: it is very funny. If you know why, please drop me a line and let me know, I am curious…

And this all from me today. Let me know if you know of other German traditions for New Year's Eve and in the meantime: I wish you all "Frohes Neues Jahr" and see you very soon in Munich.

Related posts:
Christmas market in Munich
The sweetest German tradition: the Advent Calendar and more

On my way back to home in Munich