German Traditions for the New Year
There are countless perks to growing up in countries other than the one you were born in. There are also a few drawbacks, and preserving traditions can be one of them.
While celebrating a German Christmas abroad may have been relatively easy (you explain to the kids that Nikolaus changed his name to Santa, and he comes later because “he has to travel so far”), celebrating a German new year was never quite the same.
Besides celebrating with close friends and family, and shooting off legal-fireworks in your own back yard, there was another tradition we couldn’t maintain abroad: the tradition of Bleigießen – otherwise known as lead pouring.
Now that I am back to living in Germany again for the first time since my childhood, I can partake in all the toxin-laden Bleigießen my little herz desires.
And here’s how it goes:
In addition to your supplies you’ll need a candle and a bowl of cold water
Pick one of the lead pieces and heat it up using your spoon over an open flame
Once liquid, pour it quickly into the bowl of water
Remove the shape. Use your imagination (use it a lot) to decipher what the shape looks like.
The supplies package would have come with a list of meanings. Or you can consult a list such as this one to see what your lead shape symbolizes and what fortune it tells for your new year!
If you’re curious about your fortune for the New Year, check for Bleigießen* supplies online and ring in the New Year with some good fireworks, some better champagne, and some lead pouring (no, not poisoning please).
In Germany it’s considered impolite not to look someone in the eye when you cheers them. So make sure to look everyone in the eye while clinking Sekt glasses and wishing Zum Wohl
If you want to be really German about it, then get together and watch Dinner for One – a 1920’s British comedy sketch which German’s seem to have a peculiar obsession with. It’s a cult icon of a German Silvesterabend. „The same procedure as every year!“
I wish you all a guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr (literally, a good slip/slide into the new year)
* Bleigießen products are sold readily throughout Europe without warning labels, but my personal preference is to take good care when playing with lead, especially around small children. Tin or beeswax may also be used and is of course much safer. A little disclaimer, for all my fans!