New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve in Hamburg, Germany

New Year's Eve

Fireworks for the masses, sparkling wine for you and a lonely dinner for a certain Miss Sophie. “Silvester” in Hamburg is special in every way.  

New Year's Eve

No, it’s not Halloween all over again when there’s a group of kids in costumes at your doorstep, singing nursery rhymes and looking to score sweets or small change. The age-old northern German custom of “Rummelpottlaufen” is just one of many peculiarities of New Year’s Eve in Hamburg.

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Hamburg New Year's Traditions

In many households, Silvester, as NYE is called in Germany, is planned meticulously and with a certain routine. Food plays a huge role: Berliner doughnuts are so popular that it is advisable to pre-order larger batches. But beware, it’s a common prank to fill the occasional pastry with mustard instead of delicious jelly.

For dinner, many people have carp, as it’s considered to bring luck. Other meals are less superstitious and more practical: dishes like fondue or raclette are tasty and shorten the wait until midnight, as they are usually enjoyed for hours on end.

And speaking of dinner: if English is your mother tongue, people will likely ask you about a certain Miss Sophie and her “Dinner for One”. Strangely, this English-language sketch is aired every New Year’s Eve — as one of very few non-German language shows on public-service television. The sketch is immensely popular in Germany — and widely unknown in the English-speaking world.

Just like in the show, alcoholic beverages play an important role on New Year’s Eve. Punch, Glühwein (mulled wine) and Sekt (sparkling wine) are enjoyed in large quantities — some people even take the time to prepare Feuerzangenbowle: a fiery specialty made of mulled wine, sugar and rum.

In between courses, little games like “Bleigießen” are played: leaden figures are melted down and then thrown into cold water, the bizarrely-shaped results are said to predict the future.

Fireworks 

To help make the approaching year a good one, lucky charms can be seen everywhere: from four-leaf clovers to chimney sweeps, ladybugs and piglets. In the same spirit, to make the transition as smooth as possible, people wish each other a “Guten Rutsch” (lit. good slide) and stock up on fireworks. Once believed to drive out evil spirits, the fireworks are the centrepiece of every New Year’s Eve celebration in Hamburg. 

The most spectacular view of the brightly-lit night sky can be enjoyed from the banks of the Alster lakes or at Landungsbrücken overlooking the Elbe river. It is here, where Hamburg gets the busiest on the last and most spectacular night of the year.

New Year's Eve