A New Year in Deutschland

Castle view on New Year's Eve
Castle view on New Year’s Eve

Paper wrappers and cardboard tubes littering the streets. Wooden sticks and the occasional odd pop in the distance. At first glance a heavy fog lay over all of Germany on January 1, but at second glance I realized it was firework dust hanging around us like a thick blanket in the air. Like a bomb had gone off in the night. And it was as though it had at midnight last night, with every single inhabitant lighting off their own personal arsenal to mark the passing of the old year and the issuing in of the new.

We spent this Silvester (New Year’s Eve) with some friends who live on the edge of a vineyard in the Rhein Valley. From our fireworks launching point by their house we had a perfect view of an old castle on a hill, lit up at night not only by ground spotlights but by a barrage of fireworks. Once again, Silvester provided a 360 degree view of personal pyrotechnical displays. Although this year I noticed a lot more pre-New Year’s practices throughout the week and especially on the day leading up to the main event.

Lighting the fuse
Lighting the fuse
Fireworks near and far
Fireworks near and far

I have so many things to be thankful for from the past year, which saw us new and then eventually settled in to living in Germany. I’ve learned a lot of German so far, met people from all over the world including parts of the U.S. I’ve never visited, gotten to know many of James’s German relatives and through them gained a better understanding of German culture, traveled to many German cities and other countries in Europe, and learned to say at least “thank you” and “cheers” in every country we’ve visited.

So what lies ahead for 2015? More travel and language learning, that’s for sure. Lately I’ve been watching Archer in German and picking up some more… colorful… expressions. We already have some travel plans in the works to kick off the new year right: In a few weeks we visit Austria, where James will snowboard and I will try skiing for the first time with the help of two days of lessons. In February we travel to Ireland – a first for James and my triumphant return after my first visit six years ago in which I traveled the tiny countryside on my own for about three weeks. I also plan to work hard to keep in touch with everyone – family and friends in America, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere. Technology like Skype and WhatsApp make it a lot easier to keep in touch with people internationally.

2014 was a great year of experiences and accomplishments and I’m ready for what 2015 has to offer. Guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr! / Happy New Year!

p.s. If you haven’t already, be sure to watch “Dinner for One.” For more on this odd German tradition, see my 2014 New Year’s post.

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Prosit Neue Jahr! / Happy New Year!

IMG-20140101-WA0005 In Germany, New Year’s Eve is known as “Silvester” as in the cartoon cat, or more likely maybe a tie to a saint by that name.  James and I ushered in 2014 at the house of a local cousin’s friends.  As midnight approached we lugged a crateful of firecrackers and a bottle of champagne to the top of a hill from which we had phenomenal view of the evening’s main event.  At the stroke of twelve, quite possibly every person in Germany set off one firework after another.  The Mainz skyline in the distance appeared to moving, and I soon realized that the lights I thought were from windows were actually fireworks.  Every way we turned we could see fireworks at the edges of the field, accompanied by a steady rumble punctuated with shrill whistles and blunt pops.  After maybe half an hour the roars and flashes had dwindled down to a few strolling partygoers carrying sparklers.IMG-20140101-WA0008

Our hosts had also told us that Silvester in Germany is not complete without watching “Dinner for One.”  Oddly enough, this is a British black-and-white film clip that has become a German cult classic tradition.  It consists of a stately elderly lady who celebrates her birthday with a dinner party accompanied by four imaginary guests.  Miss Sophie instructs her butler to serve each course along with a wine using “the same procedure as every year.”  This involves the butler playing the role of each guest and drinking his wine.  As the short scene continues he of course becomes drunker and less coordinated, frequently tripping over the head of large tiger skin rug.  Finally, the absurd dinner concludes and the lady and her butler walk arm in arm together upstairs for “the same procedure as every year.”

Well as they say here, “Guten Rutsch ins neues Jahr” which translates literally in English as “Good slip into the new year.”  This has been an interesting start to what I’m sure will prove to be a year filled with new discoveries, travels, and adventures.IMG-20140101-WA0001