Monday, December 30, 2013

Silvester in Germany!

Happy New Year! Or Silvester as it is called here. I´ve put together a little FAQ.

Does Silvester mean New Year in German? No. Silvester refers to the Saint. December 31 is his day. Saint Silvester was Pope Silvester I in the fourth century. You can read more about him here. So the day is called Silvester, to say Happy New Year, you wouldn´t say Happy Silvester.

So how do I say Happy New Year in German? " Frohes neues Jahr" or "Prosit Neujahr" or "Ein gutes neues Jahr"for example.

It´s my first Silvester here. What can I expect? Expect it to be LOUD. Really. Warn the children, and make sure your cats and dogs are inside. Folklore states that greeting the New Year loudly will scare away the bad omens from the last year. So, when the clock strikes 12, Church bells will ring, and fireworks will go off.

Do you mean township fireworks? Yes, and no. Yes, some townships and cities have their own fireworks displays. The most famous in Germany being at Berlin´s Brandenburg Gate. But in the days up to December 31 you will start to see fireworks being sold. This year sales began Saturday the 28th, and will end on the 31st. There are three grades of fireworks, with "3" being REALLY close to what we in the States would deem to be municipal grade.

Where are the fireworks shot off? Basically, everywhere. In back yards, in the streets, out windows.

I don´t believe you. Here´s a 2 minute video of last year´s fireworks in Bamberg.

So I can shoot them off anywhere? Check with your local authorities. Here in Bamberg for example, one can´t shoot fireworks off by the Dom, or at the Altenburg castle. Other than that, I believe it is fair game. Again, in Bamberg, they may be set off after sunset on the 31st, and are no longer legal after noon on the 1st............until  next year.

Culinary traditions? Of course! It´s considered good luck to eat Sauerkraut for one, and each piece of cabbage you eat will correspond to a piece of good luck in the coming year (or a € in your pocket, depending on who you believe). Same can be said for lentil, bean, or pea soup.

Eating pig is a sure sign of good luck, but stay away from poultry. Eating chicken or turkey on Silvester is said to make your good luck and good fortune fly away in the new year. (Those this is region specific).

You could do a traditional 'Silvesterkarpfen' or carp. And if you are particularly superstitious, keep a scale in your wallet for the year.

Jelly donuts are traditionally served as the clock strikes midnight.

Increasingly fondue or raclette is being served.

Whatever you decide to eat, be sure to leave some on your plate until after midnight. That ensures you will have enough to eat in the following year.

Gift giving?  How about a Glücksschwein?
Typically made of marzipan, a sign of good luck. Most chocolate or candy stores will have them, some supermarkets as well (check by the register).

Alternatively, a little chimney sweep!I´ve seen these in Tegut, and most flower shops will have them.

How can I figure out what will happen in the next year? Interested in fortune telling? You have options.

 Bleigießen: One pours molten lead into cold water. The shape that forms tells your future for the year. A flower means new friendship. A ship means you will take a trip. A comprehensive list (in German) is here.

Bibelstechen: Open the Bible to a random page, and with eyes closed randomly point at a passage. That passage is said to offer some insight or advice for the next year.

A pendulum: Ask the pendulum questions. Vertical swinging means no, a circular motion yes.

Are the stores open?  Alas, no. Most stores will close mid-afternoon on the 31st, re-opening on January 2nd.

What´s on TV? Up to HALF of all Germans will be watching "Dinner for One", a 17 minute British comedy. The Local did a great piece on it.

Any other New Year´s traditions here I missed? Tell us in the comments!

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