German New Year Traditions!

By Darlene Fuchs on Email

Einen guten Rutsch!

In many of the German-speaking areas the change of the year is celebrated noisily and merrily. Guests are invited, there is eating, drinking, dancing and singing. Some participate in the popular custom of “Bleigiessen,” in which a  small piece of melted lead is dropped into a bowl of cold water. From the shape you can supposedly tell your fortune for the coming year. At midnight, when the old year is almost gone and the new year is about to start, glasses are filled with champagne or wine, and toasts and hugs go with wishing each other “ein gutes neues Jahr”.

Dinner for One: a German New Year’s Eve Ritual

Every New Year’s Eve, half of all Germans will settle down in front of their TV sets on New Year’s Eve for what has become an annual ritual –  watching a 1963 English comedy sketch called Dinner for One, “Der 90. Geburtstag.”

Written by British author Lauri Wylie in the 1920s, it presents a morbidly funny story in miniature—The 15 minute sketch is performed by Freddie Frinton and May Warden, and was filmed by NDR in Hamburg in 1963. In the early 1970’s it became a regular part of the German New Year’s Eve celebration. Over the years somehow, it has become a cult classic in Germany — to the extent that it is shown on dozens of regional channels at some point over New Year and NDR shows it six or seven times during New Year’s Eve.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the most frequently repeated TV program ever. It has never been aired in the United Kingdom or the United States, and most of the English-speaking world is ignorant of its existence.

It is a sketch about a butler who gets riotously drunk while serving food and drinks to his employer, Miss Sophie, and her guests on her 90th birthday.

The running joke is that she sits alone at the table because she has outlived all her male guests who were her former lovers, so butler James has to drink their share of the wine and do all the toasts. Before each toast, he asks plaintively: “Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?” to which she responds: “the same procedure as every year, James.”

You can watch the entire video below…

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Darlene Fuchs