Spending NYE in Germany? Celebrate like a local
Whether you’re in a bustling urban area, a sleepy village, or somewhere in between, there is no mistaking the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve (called Silvester in German), which is punctuated by booms and whistles of fireworks whizzing toward the sky.
Important regulations for fireworks in Germany
The shooting of fireworks (aside from city-authorized professional events) is authorized for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. For this reason, you can purchase fireworks at your local supermarket for only a couple of days prior to NYE, usually from Dec. 29.
Fireworks sold in Germany are required to have “CE” or “BAM” labels, which indicates they have been adequately tested for safety. Klasse I includes sparklers, spinners and fountains, which can be lit year-round by children ages 12 and over. Klasse II rockets and bangers should be handled by adults and are authorized just one night a year. Klasse III and IV require special permits and are for professional use only.
While member countries of the European Union are expected to uphold the same standards, it is your responsibility to ensure fireworks you purchase in EU supermarkets or at roadside stands meet these requirements. Avoid purchasing fireworks from non-EU distributors and retailers.
Safe firework handling
With legal fireworks in hand, there are a few tips you should know to keep you and everyone else safe.
- Never light fireworks near trees, grass, awnings or roofs. Shooting them indoors or near anything else that can catch fire is also a no-go.
- With the exception of sparklers, keep hands off after igniting. Back away, giving plenty of space between you and lit fireworks.
- Avoid alcohol consumption if you are going to be lighting fuses.
- Keep a bucket of water or hose on standby and have a cellphone handy, just in case.
- If you have a dud, leave it for several minutes, then douse in water. Do not try again.
- Keep a close eye on children, and make sure pets are in a secure location as far away from the fireworks as possible.
- Though not so much a safety issue as etiquette, pick up after your party, don’t start shooting off early, and don’t continue too long after midnight.
Tips for a fun night
Now that you know the rules, it’s time to focus on having fun. Learn about NYE traditions in Europe, and consider incorporating these German favorites for the night:
- Watch the 10-minute-long “Dinner for One” British comedy, available on YouTube.
- Give miniature marzipan pigs or chocolates shaped like ladybugs to loved ones. These inexpensive tokens of good luck can be purchased at any local supermarket.
- Discover your fortune by pouring lead. For details on this interesting custom, read our holiday traditions article.
- Eat melted cheese. Many German families stay home and make raclette, a type of milk’s cheese that is heated and served with boiled potatoes, pickles and cured meat slices. In restaurants, giant wheels of cheese are placed under heating elements. At home, cheese chunks are placed in square-shaped non-stick pans and warmed on specially designed grill plates (or in the oven). Affordable at-home kits are available at supermarkets and novelty shops, like Depot; higher-end options can be found at cooking and kitchen stores. You can also opt for a fondue set.
- Go out with friends and family. Restaurants and bars on the economy host parties and plan special menus for NYE. We’ve also got a list of on-base events.
- Watch the fireworks. Even if you don’t splurge on your own, plenty of other amateurs will put on a show.
- Wish others a "good slide" into the new year in German: Ich wünsche einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr.