Christmas in Germany: New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is also known as Silvester Abend, or Sylvester’s Eve, in recognition of the fact that December 31 is St. Sylvester’s Day. Germans celebrate New Year’s Eve with parties, fortune-telling, and practical jokes. Traditional party foods include carp, herring salad, hot wine punch, and champagne. Bleigiessen, or molten lead pouring, is a traditional method of fortune-telling on New Year’s Eve. A partygoer drops a spoonful of molten lead into water and lets it harden. The shape it takes will foretell something about what that person will be doing in the coming year. Many luck charms and superstitions have also attached themselves to New Year’s Eve. One folk belief warns that spilling salt on New Year’s Eve brings bad luck. By contrast, coming into contact with a pig, chimney soot, or a chimneysweep on New Year’s Eve brings good luck. Sometimes a thoughtful party host will bring both a live pig and a chimneysweep to his New Year’s party as a way of offering good luck to his guests. Another superstition advises that the sight of a young, dark-haired man soon after the start of the new year brings good luck (see also firstfooting).
In the days following Christmas many shops sell joke goods. These include things like sugar cubes that have a spider inside them, or chocolates filled with mustard instead of candy. The Germans celebrate the new year by playing these kinds of jokes on one another. Noisemaking is another important New Year’s custom. Fireworks explode at midnight, and in some villages, horn players "blow in” the new year from the local church tower. In other regions people shoot off guns or even small cannons in honor of the new year (see Shooting in Christmas).