Celebrate New Year in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

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Prosit Neujahr - the salutation to start the New Year
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On New Year's Eve (December, 31) we celebrate the end of the year and welcome the New Year with various rituals and traditions. Often they can be traced back to popular superstitions and local peculiarities.
The festive occasion serves not only for heavy partying but people also celebrate rituals to thwart of any misfortune in the upcoming year and to foresee what the future holds in store.

Colourful and noisy fireworks illuminate the night sky all over Germany with all sorts of rockets, firecrackers and fire fountains. There can be no welcome of the New Year without. But the Old Year festivities have much more to offer!

History and Tradition

  • Naming: New Year's Eve is named after Pope Silvester I († 31 December 335).
  • History: The Gregorian calendar reform of Pope Gregory XIII. fixed the last day of the year and established the holiday in 1582. This way Pope Gregory XIII. Wanted to make Silvester immortal. According to legend, the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to the Christian faith because of Pope Gregory XIII and thus initiated the Christianization of the entire Roman Empire. Nevertheless, "New Year's Eve" customs have a pagan background. Already the early Germans used light and noisy processions to chase away evil spirits and demons that reared their ugly heads between 25 December 25th and January 6th.

    Understandably there are all sorts of customs and oracles throughout history. The most commonly celebrated custom is pouring of molten lead. Seated in a circle, people hold a piece of lead in a spoon over a burning candle and once liquefied, pour it into a bowl of cold water. The resulting lead figure is then interpreted as telling something about the fortune of the upcoming new year. A lead figure resembling a ball, reveals imminent fortune, e.g., a broken ring, however, predicts separation.

    Many other customs have been forgotten today, or are no longer popular everywhere: This includes for example the "Bibelstechen" open a Bible on the side with the thumb and point blindly at a part of the text. This should then allow a glimpse into the future. New Year´s good luck charms are given away such as ladybugs or chimney sweep made of chocolate. Or you should eat lots of lentil soup on December 31st. The lentils stand for gold coins. Also the scale of a New Year's Eve carp carried in a wallet should bring luck throughout the year. Everybody has his or her own story of lucky charm.

Greetings for New Year's Eve

  • On many parties people count the last ten seconds of the year out loud and then at 12 o´clock sharp midnight is traditionally greeted with a glass of sparkling wine or champagne and saluted "Prosit Neujahr" ("Happy New Year"). "Prosit" is derived from the Latin verb prodesse (= use). So, the toast is "it is profitable" or "it will succeed." It is a way of wishing someone a happy and successful New Year.
  • As New Year's Eve comes closer people adopt a special farewell greeting in letters and say "Guten Rutsch!" or "Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!" or "Alles Gute zum Neuen Jahr, Glück und Gesundheit", many variations are in use. In German-speaking Switzerland you would say "Rutsch guet übere!". This saying comes from the Yiddish expression "Gut Rosch", which means "beginning". .

Learning tips and links

Many hints and explanations on New Year's Eve celebrations and New Year customs are


For the purposes of all learners of German and teachers and we would extend this overview.
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Last update: 2017-02-21
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