Silvester for Dummies: A Satire


Silvester for Dummies: A Satire

Last time I did a "Dummy" post was at the tail end of Karneval in 2020 - here. It is only fitting I do one for New Years Eve on New Years Day when all advice is mostly useless. Either way most of this stuff will not apply because of Covid 19, 20 and now 21. But for many of you reading for the first time it may at least explain the unexplainable. Again, I will preface with I really do not understand everything that goes on here during this time of the year. This may turn out to be more of a comparison and contrast to traditions, superstitions and New Years goings on in America. Recently, I found out most Americans do not even understand how many Americans and other people alike ring in the new year. I guess in the sense that Christmas is so commercialized for Americans we just believe everyone has a mall Santa and sits around a tree to open presents, then you find out people have lavish breakfasts, go on vacation or don't partake in gift giving at all for Christmas. Silvester in Germany is like that. There are universal things that everyone does at the exact same time - i.e. z.B. "the same procedure every year" that us outsiders haven't a clue about. I am going to run you through those quirky tidbits that make New Years in Germany unique and special. I will also let you in on the things that make them equally annoying. 

Silvester = New Years Eve

Much like everywhere else this is the day that wraps up the year. This is the day you celebrate. This is the day that if it doesn't get done it just won't now will it. My husband just chimed in and said it is spelled not like the cat or Stallone and that even Germans spell it incorrectly. Ugh for me it is NYE the same as Christmas will always be XMAS and never Weihnachten. Either way, up until this day it is perfectly okay to greet those you encounter with an enthusiastic "Guten Rutsch!"which is telling you to sweep into this new year. The expression suddenly becomes invalid at midnight and so does the translation of Happy New Year from past to present tense. Americans will say that until fucking April if they haven't seen you. I believe here all versions must stop after Three Kings or Tag der heiligen Drei Könige - say that three times fast! This day falls on January 6th in line with the appearance of the three kings who gifted Mary and Jospeh with gifts for baby Jesus. If you are into that sort of thing ya know Christianity and all, this could mean other celebratory events or a closing of the holiday season as a whole. And for Germans I don't know how the latter works because it is like seventeen different seasons all at once right now. Thankfully, the pandemic and lockdown has made it so we don't have to worry about anything at all. Wir Tanzen Nicht™️, the seidenpapier ist weg and all stores remain closed. Normally, my Latino friends back home would have a whole nother gifting event similar to Christmas. Most people also considered it the proper day to take down all holiday decor including the Christmas tree. However, for me my tree is typically thrown out of the window on or before Silvester because of New Years rituals. If I see a pine needle after the first I am burning it. 

Americans especially Black and Southern Americans are superstitious about the New Year

With tradition and folklore the New Year specific superstitions have been passed down to different generations and cultures. The gist of most of these things end in ritual where every year the same things are done to ensure a proper beginning. For most Black people this includes cleaning the house from top to bottom as to not let any dirt from the year prior into the new year. For many others this could mean tidying up, a deep clean or an extreme countdown cleaning where all must be out before midnight. The ancestors may haunt you if you don't do this correctly or on time. I am hell bent on the last one and it is imperative that nothing remains from the year prior by 11:55pm/23:55. I will use brooms, brushes, sponges etc. and I will promptly throw all that shit away without flinching. Do I see any results from this ritual other than stress, replacing said items and having nothing to clean up with on the first - no. There is no proven account of doing whatever will work in your favor. But the saying is if you clean on New Years day you will be cleaning all year. So with that I work myself to the bone, retire around 11pm on Silvester and spend the first day of the year in a clean house doing nothing. Even if I wanted to clean something there would be nothing in my home to clean with. I normally would hide new brooms, mops etc. in my car. This year we are lucky to have an Amazon Abo coming in a few days. 

Other superstitions can include ...

  • Making a lot of noise on New Years Eve - to send the bad spirits of last year packing
  • Leaving bread, salt and money on the communal table for good luck and prosperity
  • Sweeping the dirt from last year out in one go before midnight
  • Not having dirty laundry and or trash in the home after midnight
  • Wearing new clothes on New Years Day
  • Not doing laundry (cleaning auch) on New Years Day
  • Not working on New Years Day - or you will work all year
  • Having the wrong person cross the threshold on New Years Day or within the first week of the new year - particularly women and especially red headed women

So this is where it can get tricky, I have no idea who will be delivering that abo. I pray it is the blonde lesbian lady we have had all holiday season. She is incredibly sexy and my dog likes her. Luckily for her and my sanity, Covid doesn't allow for crossing the threshold with packages. But in years past B.C. (Before Covid) I have found it is particularly hard keeping unwanted people out of my home after the New Year. We often have pop up visits from my mother in law who is of course a woman and oddly enough she is a redhead. I do not inform my husband that I wish to keep her out but I like to make excuses. I love her to death but I do not want to know what exactly will happen to my year if she comes over. The saying is to have a strong male figure cross first. This for me is my husband walking in on the 2nd with all the sponges and mop heads I left in the trunk of the car. But this can be his dad, our landlord or a DPD guy. I just hope they have whatever machismo to usher in my new year properly. Dear lesbian lady you are invited to cross my threshold anytime. You my friend have all the machismo. 

Then there is the food...

There is also the traditional meal and superstitiously if you don't have it you also have bad luck for the new year. Greens, Black Eyed Peas and Cornbread are the classic southern menu for New Years Eve and New Years Day. It is said the greens stand for cash money, the peas are golden coins and cornbread is gold but also like any bread signal health, wealth and abundance. For me I generally like the meal but it is hard to source ingredients to make it all here. After many year I have found that seasonal kale alone will suffice for a mix of collards and mustard greens . From scratch cornbread isn't too bad as long as you buy maismehl and not polenta like I did my first year here. The peas are typically available at Turkish and Italian ladens but be weary of the expiration date. Of course this requires various flavor elements and it all can be time consuming to make. I like vegan greens which need amino acid which is terribly hard to find here. But if you can make whatever, getting it right would have it on the table at the stroke of midnight to be eaten repeatedly through New Years Day. Germans much prefer the celebratory fondue or raclette or a number of festive appetizers. You will notice like grilling season in Summer the marketing around this time will increase to a cliche multicultural group laughing over some small appliance eating inspired melted cheeses, baby potatoes and cubed bread. For me it must be the above Black meal I am used to accompanied by a gluttonous and stereotypical protein like fried chicken or fish. Naturally, hot sauce must accompany everything. If there is sweet tea or Kool-Aid even better. I am totally not into the stinky cheese and weak Riesling thing. I have no idea what sort of luck that brings. 

Anywho back to Silvester...

So typically for me NYE includes a party. It can be in a bar or club, at a friends or at my house but I always partied. In my 30s when I slowed down a bit I moved the party to my house which would include family, friends and children so there wasn't much shenanigans. I would always usher in the new year with a glass of something sparkling and make a traditional meal as described above. After I married and moved abroad, that sort of stuff stopped. I couldn't make the food exactly the same as back home. My husband doesn't dance. So we stayed home the first year here but Germany brought the party to us. I was shocked to see how Germans take to the streets drinking and popping fireworks. This sort of stuff isn't allowed in the States. The celebration the world sees in New York City at Times Square is a very much a tame one. There is no public drinking. Personal fireworks are forbidden. The crowd gathers, is dispersed and the party goes on behind closed doors only. And most events for NYE in America are paid, reserved space things. You cannot just walk out the door and go wherever you want. You need to buy a ticket or reserve a table in advance typically around October for NYE. The going rate would be typically $30-50 for a woman and more for a man. If you wished to have bottle service or at minimum a champagne toast it would be $100 and up to thousands of dollars to have a good time. I was always active in the club scene so I personally have never paid for an NYE party. However, I have been in good company in many a private party where bottles of champers were poured all over me at midnight and I had no idea what some poor soul paid for it. I am sure this happens here in the same fashion. Clubs, Private Parties, Bottle Service etc. but the more typical way would be to buy a bunch of stuff at Rewe or Aldi and get drunk with friends at home. Then at midnight you would take to the streets dancing and yelling with everyone else. I guess only the rich, influencer types do it how I used to. For Germans and Germany, the party is everywhere at once and excludes runny eyeliner and hard drugs.

So what should you expect (B.C. Before Covid)

You may be invited to someone's home for more of an intimate gathering not a big party. Bring a bottle and or some ice. You can bring food but similar to Karneval stick to the ready to eat, finger foods that do not require heat or utensils. I honestly do not know what Germans wear on Silvester. Maybe the Karneval stuff would suffice i.e. z.B. a unicorn ensemble, rose gold shoes with glitter or faux leather. I do see plenty of ad campaigns about the little black dress or cocktail attire. I guess it depends on your social circle if you should dress up or not. In my opinion Germans do not even dress up to get married so. I personally invest in two outfits so I can traditionally pop tags on NYE and on New Years day. Sparking wine or champagne is the international standard but of course Germans love their beer, wine and spirits. Most of the stores gear up for this offering all sorts of pre-made shots, schnapps minis and the infamous Party Becher oder Party Bucket. This sucker will come chock full of assorted scshnapps perfect for walking with and sharing with random passerbys. Meanwhile in America liquor stores are their busiest with lines around the corner where people buy entire lots of premium top shelf for their home bars. The whole mini thing isn't for sharing but more or less for broke people, stocking stuffers and gag gifting. For Germany, this is for easy access and tossing immediately as most are plastic. The noise making and flashing lights are par for the course. The stores normally carry personal fireworks, sparklers, horns and party favor kits of hats and such. I personally go for the cheap selfie props, bubble guns and whatever lights up. This year I was surprised to find a plethora of LED gadgets like disco lamps and color changing wine chillers aka sekt kühler. I think everyone else was too considering multiple Lidl's later we finally found the last revolving prism light bulb in all of fucking Köln. 

Now for the traditional customs ... wait for it ... it is so German

In a world of seven fishes, twelve grapes, random kissing, plate smashing and forgotten resolutions - Germans have ... "Dinner for One" - a British phenomenon, recorded and syndicated by German television. This comedic "show" is to be watched on Silvester in its 18 minutes of glory. Each year the same as before and to be laughed at as if you don't already know what will happen and what is funny. While I find it incredibly funny year after year I do not understand why this of all things is the quintessential custom for Silvester in not just in Germany but all over Europe excluding its origin country the U.K. For us, it is the wind down before 11pm/23:00 where I can stop, sit and just relax and laugh before everything else. For me personally, I am cooking and cleaning all damn day long. When that studio audience comes alive on the TV it really isn't about entertainment it is more or less a break from reality. Maybe that is what is it for Germans. I break from Deutsch (it is in English) and a small moment to get away. The first year I was quite disappointed in the lack of a ball drop. For Germany, New York City is Berlin and Times Square is Brandenburger Tor. Typically there are musical performances hosted by a plethora of MC's but since we aren't big TV watchers we don't really know any of these people like Americans know of Ryan Seacrest and Nick Cannon. I want to believe the performers and hosts are beloved here in Germany and those watching from home are genuinely impressed by whatever lineup. I honestly enjoyed last night despite masked background singers and hosts standing in pouring rain. I thought everything was very suß with an overall theme around staying home, being healthy and seeing family and friends virtually. Most other channels had prerecorded performances or an in studio intimate setting. If it stays like this I could certainly get used to the homey, I have nothing, I want to die feel of German Silvester. 

Oh and before you ask ... yes everything is closed.

For Silvester stores can and will close early. On New Years day it is a national holiday so most everything is closed with the exception of a few kiosks and take away restaurants. I found that this year stores closed exceptionally early possibly because alcohol sales were suspended for the lockdown. There was also a ban on personal fireworks but all the stores selling them didn't have them under lock and key either. The alcohol ban began at 2pm/14:00 and most stores shuttered shortly after between 5pm and 18:00. So if you ran out of eggs sorry but Saturday things will re-open. Unfortunately, at least around here the carnage began early in the week so you may have to wait until next week after the 4th for a restock at your local grocer. I mean there are no limes in all of Köln Sülz at this very moment. I hate it but it is better than Weihnacten where the world completely stopped for three days straight and you couldn't even find sour cream. Anywho, lucky peas and kale for two days in this household! 

Frohes Neues Jahr!