Archives for December 2007

Silvester

Silvester is the last day of the year, 31st December, known in English as New Year’s Eve.

Many people hold or visit parties on this evening, others spend the evening with their families at home.

Popular things to eat on this evening are raclette and fondue. At midnight everyone goes out onto the streets and lets of fireworks to celebrate the New Year.

A long running television programme is the Silvesterstadl shown on the public broadcast ARD, which runs for about 4 hours and contains traditional folk music as well as sketches and interviews, many of which are connected with Silvester traditions.

The most well-known television programme on this day must, however, surely be Dinner for Onea 20-minute sketch with Freddie Frinten and May Warden which is shown every year on several channels which over the years has become a traditional part of Silvester viewing for a large part of the German population.

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

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That’s not how you write Silvester!

It’s a common enough mistake made in Germany – Silvester, the name from New Year’s Eve, is named after Pope Silvester I, who died in the 4th Century A.D.

However, many people mis-spell it as “Sylvester”, like the cartoon cat. Even TV shows get it wrong, once in a while.

This week, I saw it mis-spelled on the door of a local supermarket:

sylvester.jpg

Buying fireworks

With only three more days to go this year, we’ve reached the time when people start buying fireworks form midnight on New Year’s Eve (Silvester).

In Germany this all happens in a bit of rush, because of the restrictions on selling them.

Firstly, to buy fireworks you need to be at least 18 years old.

Secondly, and this is the main restriction, they can only be sold on the last 3 days of the year. If this includes a Sunday, as it does this year, then this is extended to 4 days.

So this year you only have Friday, Saturday and Monday morning to buy any fireworks, that you want to let off on Monday night.

Even if there are some exemptions to these rules, most people will stick to them and it creates a very different situation to that in the UK in November.

Everybody lets of their fireworks after midnight on the 31st/1st, so there are lots of fireworks going off at once creating an amazing atmosphere, but you don’t have the problem of different people at different times (or even on different days).

Because the fireworks are only sold for a very limited time, indeed with many people buying them on the 31st itself, there is less of a danger of accidents caused by insufficient precautions during their time stored in private homes.

The first hour after midnight, when the air is full of smoke and flashing lights really does have to be experienced first hand to understand what it is like – you are not watching a firework display, you are in the middle of it!

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