Tuesday 1st January 2019 will be New Year’s Day in Germany. Its German translation is Neujahr or Neujahrstag. It is always a public holiday in Germany and is known in the Gregorian calendar as the 1st day of the New Year. Many people start the New Year between 31st December and January 1st at midnight when they put on a fireworks display and drink sparkling wine. Some people might present each other with gifts of 4 leaf clovers, which are viewed as symbols of good luck for the coming New Year.
The history of the New Year celebration in Germany is somewhat different from today. Winter celebrations have been commonplace in Europe for centuries but the origins of these celebrations at this cold time of year is related to beliefs that were present before Christianity. The celebrations were put on to encourage the sun to return to the Earth at a time when the northern hemisphere endured the depths of winter.
January 1st hasn’t always been seen as the 1st day of the New Year. Up to 153 BC, the New Year celebration in Germany in ancient Roman times was celebrated on March 1st in the part of Europe which is known today as Germany. In the days of the Roman Empire and from153 BC, January 1st became New Year’s Day. However, March 25, up to the 13th century and in some places up to the 16th century, was considered to be New Year’s Day.
What Germans do at New Year
There are many different types of events that take place in a New Year celebration in Germany. They include parties, public concerts and fireworks displays. They generally last into the early hours of the 1st January. In a few areas, people may take participate in a type of fortune telling called Bleigiessen. They melt a small quantity of lead over a candle in a silver spoon. The liquid lead is tipped into cold water in a bowl where it hardens. The shape formed by the lead is a symbol indicating the coming year’s fortunes.
Once the New Year has completely arrived and after recovering from the revelry, many people will spend the remainder of the day doing quiet activities. Of course, a few will arrange a communal midday meal generally with close family and close friends.
Television programmes related to New Year often play a key role at home celebrations on the 31st December. The film called Dinner for One, which is about a butler serving to an English Lady a meal for her birthday meal is often shown, as well as a special New Year’s Eve episode of One Heart and One Soul a popular TV series, featuring Ein Herz und eine Seele.
It’s a public holiday on New Year’s Day in Germany, so services like stores, post offices, banks and businesses are generally closed. However, as public transport often runs there are some retail outlets open at the bus, railway stations and airports. Service areas on highways are generally open too. The selling of alcohol may be restricted on New Year’s Day.
What Happens in some German areas at New Year
In some areas local media may put on a competition to find the first baby born in the New Year and then publish a photo of the baby. Classical orchestras might put on a music program especially for New Year, referred to as a New Year’s Concert. This will take place in either the afternoon or the evening. On top of these events, Germany’s Chancellor will make a New Year’s speech, which is televised for all to see.
Spending time in Berlin as a New Year celebration in Germany starts on New Year’s Eve. This is what many tourists from all around the world like to do as Berlin is the Federal Republic of Germany’s capital. Midnight at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate is a compulsory venue for any young Europeans who are about to reach the age of 18. It’s a multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual, multicoloured party, attended by more than a million people.
You can see translations of New Year in all the different languages showcased on placards in the street. Following midnight, thousands upon thousands of people move onto Spree, which is an area between Hackesche Höfe and Oranienburger Straße, where cafes, pubs, restaurants, clubs and discos open their doors to the revelry of the New Year.
There are also trendier areas like Kulturbrauerei, found in Schönhauser Allee, which used to be a brewery but is now home to numerous clubs that put on many kinds of music. Those who are after a seat in the front row to view the New Year’s fireworks display at the River Spree, may choose Spree on Fire, found in Stralauer Allee, where dancing is a feature to what’s called house music. The tourists love it and are forever asking for rapid translations of the lyrics in the music. In fact, those who are bilingual help those who can’t speak German by offering on-the-spot translations.