As the year comes to an end, we all start to think about how we’re going to celebrate seeing in the new year. British and German traditions are very similar in so many ways, but some are a little bit different…
So similar and yet so different
When we arrived in the UK in 2004, we weren’t very familiar with its traditions and how people liked to celebrate. Even Halloween took us by surprise as it wasn’t very popular in Germany at the time. Luckily, we had lovely neighbours who didn’t play a trick on us for not being prepared. Just as well as we had literally set foot in the country on 31st October!
Raclette has become a traditional New Year’s Eve dinner in Germany
Our first New Year’s Eve was no different. I thought that the British would do as we do in Germany. Most Germans get together with friends or family; often at home with a traditional Swiss raclette. If you don’t know what a raclette is, it’s a special kind of grill that is placed at the centre of the table where you would cook your own meat on top and cook prepared vegetables or seafood in the little pans underneath. To make it super calorific and super delicious, you add Swiss raclette cheese (or cheddar if you don’t have any) to the vegetables. After the feast is over, the champagne is poured, and we would venture outside to enjoy some fireworks and wish all the neighbours a happy new year.
Bonfire night firework displays
So, you can imagine how stupid we felt when we stood out in the street with our champagne glasses on that first New Year’s Eve in the UK without a neighbour in sight! There was also a distinct lack of fireworks! For the second time in so many months, our lovely neighbours took pity and invited us into their home to celebrate together. We still laugh about it now but we did make some very good friends on that first New Year’s Eve.
In later years, we learnt that fireworks are more traditional on Bonfire night rather than New Year’s Eve in the UK. However, in large cities like London or Berlin, there are lots of New Year’s Eve parties going on and London knows how to see the new year in with a fantastic firework display too. Although, this might all change in the future as the world pays more attention to the emissions it releases and the impact they have on the environment. Anyway, that’s another story for another time – but I will be keeping a close eye on it!
What’s Dinner for one?
In Germany, there’s another funny tradition that most of us like to keep up with on New Year’s Eve. It’s called ‘Dinner for One’; also known as ‘The 90th birthday’. Every New Year’s Eve, Germans get together to watch this comedy sketch written by the British writer, Lauri Wylie. Strangely, it is the most repeated TV programme in Germany.
It was filmed in 1963 and shown in black and white. Many Germans find it hilarious as the butler gets more and more drunk and finally ends up falling flat on his face on the lion-headed rug! However, I did end up getting bored of it by the time I reached my twenties and I haven’t really watched it since.
What I find quite funny is that most Germans think that ‘Dinner for One’ is also popular in Britain, but most of the British I know have never heard of it! However, it finally got its UK premiere at the comedy film festival in Campbeltown, Argyll and Bute in November 2018.
Have you ever heard of it or experienced anything like me when moving from the UK to Germany or vice versa? It would be lovely to read your stories on any unusual traditions you’ve come across. I guess we often just stumble across these things as we integrate into a country that we have chosen to be our home. I certainly enjoy learning about traditions in other countries and I look forward to reading your comments and stories.