Three German New Year’s Traditions You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

by Georgia Riungu

Curious about how Germans handle the holidays? Here's some insight to help you look like a pro.


Gather around your favorite candle for a spot of fortune-telling!

Place a little metal charm on a spoon and hold it over the flame until it melts. Tip the molten material quickly into cold water. Once the unique shape formed by this process has cooled and hardened, it’s time to take a good look at it to see what the future has in store for you. Specific shapes have set meanings you can look up online — a tree means your skills will grow, and a cup symbolizes health and happiness. Alternatively, use your imagination and interpret the creation on your own terms.

Oh and don't worry: though the tradition literally means lead-pouring, gone are the days people used to melt lead for this New Year’s custom! You can pick up a special kit containing small tin or wax figures and a special wooden-handled spoon for the occasion.

Dinner for One

This short film is a cult classic in Germany and holds the record for the most repeated show on television here. In the 18-minute sketch, a wealthy woman is celebrating her 90th birthday with a dinner party for her esteemed friends, all of whom are played by her faithful butler who gets progressively more drunk in his efforts to keep up a tradition that’s “the same procedure as every year.”

Aired on German TV for the first time in 1963, the humor is certainly dated and not to everyone’s taste, but it’s a tradition in many households across Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland to watch this on New Year’s Eve. Some diehard fans even eat and drink along with the menu from the film! Interestingly, though it’s entirely in English and features British actors, the film never really took off in the UK.


In Germany, it’s tradition to give these lucky charms from January 1st. They can take the form of a kitschy little toy or ornament, but they’re often made from marzipan, biscuit, or chocolate. Searching for one that’s just right? Look out for chimney sweeps, ladybugs, and pigs — all traditional symbols of good luck in Germany — as well as four-leaf clovers, horseshoes, and toadstools.

Fun fact: In German, to say “Ich habe Schwein gehabt” (literally: I’ve had pig) can mean “I’ve had good luck.”

What to Eat?

A crowd pleaser: Fondue or Raclette (melted cheese is always delicious). Plus, it staves off hunger ‘til midnight. Another option is to make some Silvesterkarpfen (New Year’s Carp). This is a baked, pan-fried, grilled, or smoked fish — for a lighter dinner.

What to Drink?

Try this special "fire-tongs punch", Feuerzangenbowle. It is just mulled wine with rum, oranges, lemons, cinnamon, and cloves. Another classic holiday drink in Germany: Sekt, which is a sparkling wine

What to Say?

Guten Rutsch! Good slide (into the New Year)!

Frohes Neues! Happy New (Year)! 

Prosit Neujahr! Cheers to the New Year! (specifically for New Year's Eve).

Next Article