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New Year's in Germany: Doughnuts, Fortune-Telling and "Dinner for One"

New Year’s Eve is here again, which means it’s time to break out the champagne, Auld Lang Syne, and…jelly doughnuts?

silvester-frankfurt

Doughnuts, it turns out, are a New Year’s tradition in Germany. As connoisseurs of German desserts, Leckerlee had to take a deeper look at some of the other common New Year’s traditions celebrated in the country that’s home to lebkuchen

New Years’ Fortune

Germany celebrates New Years as Silvester, named after Pope Sylvester I, whose feast day is observed on December 31. Like many other countries, the Germans celebrate the New Year with fireworks and champagne and then wish each other a Prosit Neujahr (Happy New Year!), but they also have many traditions of their own to look forward to the next year — or even predict it.

Bleigießen is a popular fortune-telling tradition where German party-goers melt lead in a spoon and pour the melted lead into cold water. The shape the lead takes determines your fortune for the year. A lion, for example, predicts that you’ll make good friends; an eagle indicates career success, and a bell means you’ll inherit money.

Bibelstechen is another important tradition that involves closing your eyes, opening the Bible to a random page and pointing to a verse. The verse where your finger lands is supposed to provide advice or information about the coming year.

Food and “Dinner for One” 

Unlike Thanksgiving, New Year’s isn’t celebrated by a single staple dish. However, both Germans and many Americans follow the “no-poultry” rule. Chickens and turkeys scratch backward, so New Year’s celebrants instead cook a pork dish — pigs root forward, allowing those who dine on pork to move forward with the new year.

Other popular food traditions include:

  • Sauerkraut: Germans believe that eating Sauerkraut brings blessings and wealth for the new year.
  • Linsensuppe: A finished bowl of lentil soup is supposed to guarantee plenty of change in one's pocket for next year.
  • Jelly Doughnuts: After the New Years’ celebrations, it is custom to bring out jelly doughnuts. The dough signifies a “rise” in your money for the following year. 

While enjoying food and desserts, it is common for Germans to watch the short play Dinner for One. The sketch features Miss Sophie, an upper-class Englishwoman celebrating her 90th birthday, who outlives her usual birthday party guests. So, James, the butler, instead impersonates each guest the entire night, providing a hilarious comedy for viewers.

Whether you’re celebrating New Year’s 2017 in the United States or Germany, both offer fantastic food and drink traditions. If you’re not already stocked up on sauerkraut and doughnuts, add some lebkuchen to your New Year’s tradition. Stock up on lebkuchen at Leckerlee before it's gone!