Sylvester: German new year's traditions

A champagne cork pops in celebration.
A champagne cork pops in celebration.
A champagne cork pops in celebration.
A champagne cork pops in celebration.

Sylvester: German new year's traditions

by: Heather Ann Cosimo | .
Stripes Europe | .
published: March 16, 2016

German New Year’s Eve is also referred to as Sylvester Night. Named after a fourth century pope, the Feast of Saint Sylvester falls on December 31st. Saint Sylvester left a memorable mark in history after allegedly healing from leprosy and baptizing the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great. 

At midnight the skies erupt with fireworks. Everyone from young kids to grandparents can be seen setting off their own private show. A traditional menu for staying in and entertaining may consist of serving carp or herring, along with cabbage and carrots to bring in financial stability. Meat and cheese fondues are other popular options. Customary drinks of the evening are sekt (champagne) or Feuerzangenbowle (flaming fire tongs punch). 

Celebrating Sylvester Night involves various customs and time honored traditions. Eating, drinking and making resolutions are considered widely universal. Whereas other activities, such as watching “Dinner for One” or lead pouring may be unusual to some, but are certainly common in Germany. 

Call it a cult classic or an off-the-wall tradition. The British sketch show “Dinner for One” originally aired in 1963 and is still viewed by Germans annually. Watching the short 14 minute show has become synonymous with ringing in the Neujahr. 

Seeking a stylish evening? Dress up and head to a Sylvester Ball. The evening may include the popular tradition of lead pouring, called Bleigiessen. Molten lead is melted in a spoon by the heat of a flame underneath. The lead is then dropped into cold water and based on the shape that is formed, ones future can be predicted. For example, if the shape is a heart or ring that means a wedding is in your future. A ball formation signifies luck will soon be rolling your way. Hoping for a year filled with plenty of food? Cross your fingers for a pig shape. And spotting a ship just may secure a journey of some sort. 

Over one million guests congregate at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. One of the world’s largest events stretches across 80,000 square meters filled with party tents, live music and laser shows. The sekt flows, fireworks explode and wishes of “Gutes Nuejahr”, Happy New Year, are in order. Munich’s Theresienwiese is the site for the Tollwood fest, with the grand finale on December 31st. Bands and DJ’s take the stage and entrance fee is just under 20 euro. Take your pick from one of the organized parties held at swanky clubs and hotels in Frankfurt. Or head to one of the bridges and stake out a spot for a spectacular view of the fireworks display at midnight. If you spend the night in Frankfurt, there’s the annual traditional New Year’s Day Concert held at the Alte Oper.

Tags: Berlin, champagne, clubs, fireworks, food, Germany, history, hotel, Munich, resolutions, new year's eve, Sylvester, Silvester, ski
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