Olli’s Saturday School – Happy New Year

After learning Christmas I guess it’s time to teach you guys how Germans experience the transition into a new year.

It usually starts some time in December, when you realize that you’ll be talking to people for the last time this year.
Yes, some of us1 do the “See you next year!”-Thing.
A common German way of saying that would be: Bis nächstes Jahr!
The traditional thing is: Einen guten Rutsch (ins neue Jahr)! which literally translates to (Have) a good slide (into the new year)!

There are several possible origins for this expressions, the truth is probably lost in time. Just roll with it and reply the same thing or just say Danke, gleichfalls! (Thanks, likewise!)

When Silvester comes around (New Year’s Eve is known as Silvester in Germany since it’s apparently also St. Silvester’s Day) there are several ways people celebrate.

Some go to large-scale parties or gatherings in big towns, comparable to the Times Square ball drop or Hogmanay in Edinburgh, some don’t do anything, some celebrate in one way or the other with family and friends. Eating out is a thing but if you plan to do that, make a reservation as early as you can, usually everything that is open, even in the smallest villages, will be fully booked.

As with Christmas, one tradition is watching seasonal episodes of classic German comedy tv shows before or after dinner.

This one is a long standing German tradition despite the content having nothing to do with Silvester or Neujahr (New Year’s Day):

When not eating out, two things typical for Silvester in Germany would be Fondue (usually just the oil one, not cheese) or Raclette. My personal guess is that became a tradition because it often takes very long and thus makes it easy to pass the time until Mitternacht (midnight) and you usually simply don’t have the time to do that.

Just before midnight the party usually heads outside to either watch communally staged Feuerwerk (fireworks) light their own or watch the neighbors shoot colorful rockets into the sky.

Raketen, Kracher, Böller, Leuchtfontänen, Wunderkerzen, if it’s noisy and or colourful, Germans will light it. Unfortunately some will do that the whole evening or even week, because idiots.

In fact, unless you have a special permit, you can only buy class II fireworks2 on the last three working days of the year and it’s only allowed to light them on those two days.

Apart from fireworks another tradition is opening a bottle of Champagner or Sekt (champagne and non-special-french sparkly wine) and clink glasses, hug and maybe kiss at midnight.
From now on people wish eachother a Gutes neues Jahr (good new year) or Prost Neujahr (Cheers to New Year’s Day) for a couple of days or weeks whenever they meet and hope nobody asks them about any resolutions, because yes…that is pretty much the same here as everywhere else.
The German term for a new year’s resolution is ein guter Vorsatz, Vorsatz interestingly also being the word for premeditation.


Gutes neues Jahr!

  1. I don’t exclude myself from that []
  2. the typical stuff []