For those ones still missing the recent New Year’s celebrations…here is the way the Germans spent it. Take note, you can be part of the party next time….

Words and pics by Lynda Higgs

Silvester traditions Berliner pfannkuchen

Silvester traditions Berliner pfannkuchen

Whilst Christmas is generally a time for family and contemplation, Silvesterabend (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated with noise and light, a custom dating back to Germany’s pagan past when it was believed that the boundaries between the real and spirit worlds were easily crossed by mystical or evil beings.

To ensure good fortune for the New Year certain foods and customs are part of the festivities, starting with bowl of lentil soup (Linsensuppe) to guarantee change in your pocket through the coming year (interestingly it is also customary in Italy to eat a dish of lentils on New Year’s Eve for similar reasons), whilst in Saxony some bread and salt are placed under a cloth and kept into New Year’s Day in order to ensure that no one in the house goes hungry in the coming year.

Silvester Bleigießen

Silvester Bleigießen

Of course, the biggest party in Germany takes place in Berlin, with the focal point being a midnight fireworks display at the Brandenburg Gate. Fittingly a popular Silvester sweet treat, eaten just after midnight, is the Berliner or Pfannkuchen, a jam-filled doughnut and people queue up at their local bakery to ensure that they have fresh Berliner for their celebrations. It is also considered lucky to touch a chimney sweep or have him rub ash across your forehead, although these days, with chimney sweeps in short supply, it’s more common to come across decorative ones on cakes or in a pot of lucky clover.

Chimney sweep on Gugelhupf cake

Chimney sweep on Gugelhupf cake

A Silvesterabend is incomplete without observing two very particular German customs: one is to watch the short, eccentric, 1963 TV show “A Dinner For One” (it’s on YouTube) – so regular a feature is this show that many Germans can quote it verbatim; the other is the custom of Bleigießen (pron. bley-gee-sin), which involves melting small quantities of lead in a spoon over a candle and dropping the molten lead into cold water. The resulting pattern is considered a prediction for the coming year – a ball means that luck will roll your way, a ring means a wedding, a ship means travel, and so on.

Words and pics by Lynda Higgs

To find out more about German New Year’s Eve customs visit:

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