einen guten Rutsch in das neue Jahr!
That's what Germans wish each other in the days preceding New Year's Eve. I was all set to tell you that it means 'Have a good slide into the new year', the German rutschen meaning 'to slide' but then I looked it up (I loooooooove the internet) and found that it actually comes from the Hebrew Rosh Hashanah. Rosh means something like 'head' or 'start' and it's there that the expression Rutsch originated. Wow, who knew?
In 1582 the Gregorian calendar reform changed the last day of the year from December 24 to December 31. It was on this day that Pope Silvester I died in 335 A.D. and in remembrance of this event New Year's Eve is known as Silvester in German.
We've finished our New Year's dinner now and are whiling away the last couple of hours before midnight.
We had a meat fondue, as we've done for many years, but a couple of years ago we got tired of doing the meat in hot oil and decided to cook it in broth instead. It's much less fatty, and at the end you get a delicious soup for the next day. We also did some jumbo shrimp which turned out really well.
Remember the chimney sweep? Well, he's back again as a good luck symbol for German New Year's. As a table decoration I got each of us a little four-leaf clover plant with a chimney sweep in it. He's holding a red and white toadstool, another Glücksbringer or lucky charm here. Other good luck symbols in Germany include lady bugs, pigs and horseshoes.
Another Silvester activity in Germany is Bleigießen, the practice of melting bits of lead to predict the future. The lead is melted in a spoon and then quickly dipped in water where it hardens into all sorts of interesting formations.
I missed having Christmas crackers this year, but Mr. M found some New Year's crackers for sale. Wheee! Mine had a yellow plastic heart charm in it. Please discuss.
The highlight of the kids' Silvester is letting off loads and loads of firecrackers and rockets. And when I say loads, I really do mean loads. What is it about little (and big) boys and fire?
All that noise makes me a bit nervous so I stay inside and watch the fun from there. There are also wonderful fireworks all over Hannover which we can see them quite clearly from Boy9's bedroom window.
It's also customary to eat jelly doughnuts at midnight in Germany. The significance of this is beyond me, but apparently one of the doughnuts is traditionally filled with mustard instead of jelly (we don't do that because, really, what a waste of a good doughnut!) and I'm assuming whoever gets that one will have either extraordinarily good or bad luck in the coming year.
I'm wishing all of YOU a wonderful 2006, whatever your hopes and dreams for the days ahead may be.