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New Years Eve (Silvester) in Germany

By Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Years Eve in Hamburg. People have been setting off fire works and firecrackers all day. It's quite noisy and a little... disconcerting as some of them are quite loud. I don't particularly like it.

Germans call New Years Eve Silvester, after Pope (and later Saint) Silvester whose day is celebrated today. Pagan Germans believed that the 12 days after the solstice were outside of time, when the day and night caught up to each other, called Rauhnächte, or hairy nights after the hairy demons that would run around at this time. In fact: 
According to German tradition on New Years Eve "no one should do any laundry, because the god Wotan made his rounds with his army of devils for a wild hunt during Silvester and would be terribly angry if he got caught in any clotheslines." The Local.de

 Happy New Year!

Germans are crazy about fireworks.

They're only legal to buy for a few days before New Years, but when they're on sale in stores they go crazy and buy huge numbers of them. They started setting them off a few days ago, one here, another there. They're very loud, and we weren't sure what the noise was at first since the fireworks available to ordinary people are quite tame in the US.

Then yesterday, it got dark around 4:30 and they started and just didn't stop. When we left to go out they were going off constantly, and we live in a quiet, residential part of the city.  I imagine it was what a war zone sounded like.

There are even a few going off now as I write this (8pm, 1st of January, 2012)

We started the evening by going to the pub the Irish Rover, hoping to find somewhere full of English speakers, and while the staff did speak English, the tables around us were all full of well served Germans.

People were setting off fireworks outside the pub, and we were still startled when they'd go off. We talked to an Irish waiter about how being from the US, we usually associate that sound with gunfire. My husband and I both grew up in areas where hunting was popular, but he also lived in Philadelphia and Camden where there is a lot of gun violence. The waiter we talked to said it was the same in Ireland.

Not sure what to do after having a drink or two, we decided to head over to the Binnenalster. As we walked closer we started to hear more and more fireworks.

When we got there, it was insane. People were setting off fireworks and firecrackers everwhere, on the side walks, throwing them into the road.
 
I got a little stressed out because no one bothered to let you know they were about to set of a firework right behind you or they'd just chucked a firecracker at your feet. We eventually stopped under a sheltered marble entrance to a department store since no one would be setting off fireworks from under it. Someone was, however, standing in the back closest to the doors and lighting fire crackers in the middle of the crowd. I was pretty annoyed with that.



Safety was not a priority. In the US, setting off these fireworks would involve clearing an area, making sure everyone was a safe distance back, then one person would light it, and run back. Here, people were lighting them with their cigarettes and holding bottle rockets in their hands and firing them off into the night.


We ended up standing next to two men and a woman from France. Although they didn't speak a lot of English, they wouldn't take no for an answer when it came to sharing Champagne, offering us doughnuts to telling us to dance. Here's one of them, wearing two little hats:


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