5 intriguing New Year traditions from Central Europe

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Let’s have a look at some of the things they like to get up to when seeing in the big digit change.

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New Year’s Eve, when Father Time has a heart attack and is reborn as a newborn babe with a “best baby” sash around his belly, is a favourite holiday for all people everywhere – what other day is known as a free global party? Admittedly, not everybody appreciates the day after, also known as International Hangover Day, but that can still be fun too despite the bleary nausea.

Central Europeans have been loving New Year’s Eve parties since the Gregorian calendar’s introduction helped most countries agree when it was time to simultaneously party. Let’s have a look at some of the things they like to get up to when seeing in the big digit change.

5 intriguing New Year traditions from Central Europe
A poster for Sylwester, Warsaw. Photo: Adam Zulawski


Turns out that most central European countries call NYE simply “Silvester”. It may at first sound like they simply have a refined appreciation for the work of Mr Stallone, but it’s because December 31 is traditionally Saint Silvester’s Day.

Imagine if instead of saying we celebrated Easter, everybody called it Arnold. “Happy Arnold! The Arnold Bunny brought you an Arnold egg!”

Yeah, it’s a lot like that.

5 intriguing New Year traditions from Central Europe
Grandfather Frost. Photo: raquel9e

Grandfather Frost

Ded Moroz may sound like a heavy metal band (seriously dude, Dead Morose rock!), but it turns out it’s actually the Slavic name for the supernatural figure Grandfather Frost. Several countries including Slovenia, Romania and Poland have adopted his legend, saying that he brings presents to kids on New Year’s Eve.

The tradition was gleefully taken up by the Soviets as a way of secularising Christmas, as Grandfather Frost is pretty much Saint Nicholas in all but name.

Yet, many countries like to enjoy both gifts from Ded Moroz and Saint Nicholas, and even Santa Claus if they’re feeling generous – they’re like jolly bearded triplets.

5 intriguing New Year traditions from Central Europe
Vienna Philharmonica play Schumann and Schubert. Photo: Tamas


In Austria, the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day concert in the prestigious Musikverein concert hall is possibly the most famous annual classical performance in the world. It’s watched on televisions around the world by millions unable to travel to Vienna – but even if you were there, the concert is so popular, you have to book tickets a year in advance!

The music played is mainly from the acclaimed Strauss family, with the centrepiece of the concert always the Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II.

If you’re looking for something more rowdy, Krakow’s huge medieval square in Poland is packed out each year by a big pop concert that’s free to attend and broadcast on Polish television.

5 intriguing New Year traditions from Central Europe
New Year in Freiburg, Germany. Photo: orestART

BIG parties

Hungarians believe that the turning of the calendar is the one day of the year when animals can speak. You’d think this would lead to most Hungarians spending midnight videotaping their pet cats expectantly, ready to upload the footage to the web and get their millions of internet dollars – but actually, Hungarians are off partying like the rest of the world.

In Vörösmarty Square in Budapest, the revelries are spread across three days, starting on December 30, with live bands and fireworks. Hungarian hangovers are often treated with kocsonya, a gelatinous dish made from pig’s feet.

In Prague, Wenceslas Square is the centre of celebrations, with thousands of people gathering together to drink champagne, the bottles of which are then smashed with abandon. Don’t wear flip flops is some obvious advice for all involved.

5 intriguing New Year traditions from Central Europe
Brandenburger Tor, Berlin. Photo: onnola

Berlin has a similarly explosive reputation, with fireworks and firecrackers going off all over the place, particularly around the Brandenburg Gate, while the very hilly Grunewald park offers excellent and popular views of it all.

Earlier in the day, Grunewald may also interest suspiciously healthy types – it’s where the Silvesterlauf takes place, otherwise known as the Pancake Run. Entrants run around 10km around the exhausting terrain. As a reward, they all get a pancake.

Germans, in general, like to enjoy a traditional marzipan pig at New Year’s. We’re not sure why that is, but the pig probably represents those stubborn resolutions everyone insists on making and marzipan is made out of something you’re probably going to eat to break them.

5 intriguing New Year traditions from Central Europe
Dinner For One, a New Year’s tradition in Germany. Photo: storebukkebruse

Dinner For One

The oddest and probably best NYE tradition is also German – watching the television play Dinner For One. Shown without subtitles in its original English, the comedic play depicts an elderly couple getting ready to celebrate the new year.

Almost unknown in England, the viewing of this 18-minute programme has been a tradition in Germany for more than 40 years and purportedly up to half the nation watches at least one of the dozen or so screenings that evening across all the channels.

Germans everywhere enjoy quoting its catchphrases such as “Same procedure as every year!” much to their own delight.

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(Featured image: Gamma Man)

5 intriguing New Year traditions from Central Europe was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Adam Zulawski