New Year’s Day is a public holiday throughout Germany. Together with New Year’s Eve, this celebration is a favourite for millions of Germans each year marked by lavish parties and traditional food.
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New Year’s Eve, known in Germany as Silvester, begins the festivities on the evening of 31 December. Named for Saint Silvester, a fourth century Pope, Silvester celebrations often include champagne or “Sekt”, a German sparkling wine, and sumptuous meals.
Traditional fare includes “midnight soup”, often lentils or beans with sausage, and a platter of carp or herring with cabbage. In the past, Germans believed this meal, held at least in part until midnight, would lead to abundance in the New Year. Other foods include meats, cheeses and sweets, often marzipan in the shape of pigs or ladybugs, believed to confer good luck.
The Silvester celebration is a lively social gathering of family and friends, and midnight is marked with loud displays of fireworks or firecrackers, and often with traditional drums, whip cracking and the banging of kitchen pots – believed in early Teutonic tradition to drive away evil winter spirits.