Skip to comments.Guten Rutsch!
Posted on 01/01/2018 4:04:22 AM PST by SandRat
If youve ever been in Germany between Christmas and New Years, you have without a doubt heard somebody wishing you a Guten Rutsch! It literally means a good slide and people use it to wish you a Happy New Year. Theres various ideas how the good slide expression came about with some people theorizing it originates in the Yiddish word rosch and Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Others argue that it stems from the original meaning for Rutsch, a journey. Personally, I always figured with the winter weather and amount of black ice we get in Germany it makes sense to wish people a good slide as everybody is slipping and sliding about the place anyway. The first time you meet people after New Years they may also ask if you actually slid into the new year well. That just confirms my weather theory and Im sticking with it.
On New Years Eve itself, of course everybody has their own ideas on how to spend the evening, but there are a few staples you will find in many households. Aside from festive, hours-long meals like raclette or fondue, many people insist on having Neujahrsbowle which is just another word for New Years punch that contains at least one form of alcohol and juices as well as fruits. There have been legendary hangovers caused by Bowle made with frozen strawberries, vodka and Sekt, sparkling wine. So after the lengthy dinner you pass the time until midnight by sipping on your cup of Bowle and playing music and games, the most popular is probably Bleigiessen, which literally means lead pouring or, in more technical terms, molybdomancy. A small piece of lead is heated on a spoon over a small flame and once liquified its quickly dumped into a bowl of water. The solidified piece is then being interpreted by everybody around the table to read the future and guess what new year holds.
Another tradition in many homes is to watch Dinner for One, a British theatre comedy sketch that a German TV stationed recorded in the 1960s in its original English language and that has since become a staple on national television every New Years Eve. Between all the channels that broadcast it you could easily watch it fifteen to twenty times that evening. The plot of the roughly 20 minute long black and white piece is about Miss Sophie, a wealthy British lady, who celebrates her 90th birthday. All her friends have passed away over the years but the dinner table is set up for all of them. Her butler, James, has to virtually sit in for the absent guests one by one and toast with Miss Sophie through every course of her birthday dinner. Naturally, he gets more and more drunk with every round and has trouble pouring more drinks, walking etc. The tagline that makes the entire thing funny is that during every course and toast James asks Miss Sophie: The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie? To which she responds: The same procedure as every year, James! At the end Miss Sophie declares that she is ready to retire to bed. Hand in hand James and Miss Sophie approach the staircase and once again James aks: By the way, the same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie? Miss Sophie answers with delight: The same procedure as every year, James! James slyly responds with Well, I'll do my very best! Most Germans Ive met find the sketch immensely funny but native English speakers somehow arent quite as amused by it. Unfortunately my husband, too, found it pretty lame during our first New Years Eve when I insisted he watch it. Imagine my disappointment!
Once midnight finally arrives, everybody, of course, counts down the last 10 seconds until the clock strikes 12. Everybody clinks glasses with a glass of Sekt. People hug, kiss and wish each other Pros(i)t Neujahr. Prosit is a form of the Latin verb prodesse meaning to benefit, so the toast wishes for a successful new year. The original word Prosit has changed to Prost in some areas of Germany and the exclamation has turned into an expression that is not exclusively used on New Years Eve alone but may be heard any time people propose a toast.
Last, but not least, Germans are the masters of fireworks. I swear the entire country blows up millions of Euros every single year to an extent I have yet to experience anywhere I have lived in the US. To be honest, I never liked New Years Eve outside because of the noise level that comes with fireworks. But my fellow Germans dont mind and cant seem to get enough of their fireworks. People are shooting up anything they can light up well into the morning hours of Jan. 1, much to the dismay of anybody that doesnt want to stay awake until the sun comes up. Originally it was believed that bright lights and loud noises would chase away evil spirits but Im not sure how well thats going in all actuality.
Regardless of what your plans are for tonight, be it a quiet night on the couch or dancing into the wee hours of the morning and partying like its 1999, I hope you slide well into the new year. Prosit Neujahr!
I hope you slide well into the new year.
Could some kindly young techie here on FR locate a link to that 1960s Brit TV video, and post it here, so that many more of us may join in on the custom, regardless how lame it may seem to some? I, for one, would be grateful. I luv Brit humor.
Sounds more like a Bavarian or southern German thing to me.
Never heard the phrase once during the time I spent in northern Germany (thanks to Uncle).
Me neither. I was introduced to “Black Ice” as a sailor driving to Todendorf, [West] Germany in an Army rent-a-car (Chrysler productthat then wanted to steer into the wind!)
I would have guessed it meant the casual glide from the Christmas holiday into New Years, just a week later.
“Could some kindly young techie here on FR locate a link to that 1960s Brit TV video, and post it here, so that many more of us may join in on the custom, regardless how lame it may seem to some?”
Not young anymore, but I think this is it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVd_VLO9xcc
Can’t play it because youtube causes my computer to seize up.
I didn’t know there where any Hill Billy Hicks in Germany.
Never heard it, either. Did hear “Gruss Gott! a lot from Bavarians.
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