How Germans Celebrate New Year’s Eve

Brandenburg Gate Credit: Berlin Partner

Brandenburg Gate Credit: Berlin Partner

Silvester is What the Last Day of the Year is called in Germany

Germans celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks displays, Swiss Raclette cheese and the old British TV sketch, Dinner for One. Same procedure as every year.

In Germany, New Year’s Eve is called Silvester. The association of the last day of the year with the name Silvester dates back to the year 1582 when the Gregorian Calendar Reformation postponed the last day of the year from December 24 to December 31, which is the anniversary of the death of Pope Silvester who died on 31 December 335. The Liturgical calendar has kept this day since 813 as his saint feast day.

In Germany the New Year is traditionally greeted with fireworks throughout the country. The fire feasts on the last day of the year have old Germanic roots and date back to the year 153 B.C. when the beginning of the new year was postponed from March 1 to January 1.

The New Year is Greeted with Fireworks and Firecrackers throughout Germany
Fireworks on New Year's Eve in Germany Credit: Zzyzn

Fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Germany Credit: Zzyzn

In German speaking countries, the New Year starts with fireworks and midnight church services. Loud booms and the smell of sulfur are in the air as soon as darkness descends. The fireworks displays reach their climax at midnight, when everywhere in the country people simultaneously shoot off fireworks and fire crackers for at least 30 minutes.

Fireworks are ignited in gardens, from balconies, in streets and on squares. In addition, there are several large public fireworks displays in city centers organized by municipalities. German cityscapes bloom with fireworks at midnight, with Germans spending large sums of money on them. The next morning, the streets resemble battlefields.

Berlin – One of Europe’s Largest New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Every year Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in all of Europe that is attended by over one million people. The focal point of these festivities is the “Brandenburger Tor” (Brandenburg Gate), formerly on the border of East Berlin. Massive amounts of fireworks are set off at midnight in this area. Three stages, six disco tents, over 200 market stalls and five screens are planned for the big event. More than 600 policemen will guarantee safety.

German New Year’s Eve Traditions
German New Year' s Eve Credit: obs/Chantre & Cie. GmbH

German New Year’
s Eve Credit: obs/Chantre & Cie. GmbH

Since 1972, each Silvester (New Year’s Eve), German television stations broadcast a short British theatrical performance titled Dinner for One, also known as “The 90th Birthday”, a comedy sketch written by British author Lauri Wylie for the theater in the 1920s. The 18-minute black and white 1963 TV recording featuring British comedians Freddie Frinton and May Warden has become an integral part and a cult television classic of the New Year’s Eve schedule of several German TV stations.

A punch line from the comedy sketch, “same procedure as every year”, has become a catch phrase in Germany. If Germans are asked what they have planned for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, they will respond with that phrase in English.

German Food Traditions on New Year’s Eve

The traditional “Silvesteressen” New Year’s dinner is Raclette, a Swiss cheese dish melted over potatoes. An electric raclette oven is placed in the middle of the table and pieces of raclette cheese are melted in miniature skillets on the raclette oven. When the cheese melts it is scraped over potatoes on each diner’s plate. Another traditional dish for Silvester is smoked fish with potato salad. Many Germans, like the author, traditionally eat Raclette on Christmas Eve.

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