With all other Dickinson students having flown the Bremen-coop, I was left to experience New Year’s Eve in Bremen by myself. Fortunately I had two great Bremen-natives, Verena Mertz and Christine Mueller to show me the ropes of the quirky German New Year’s traditions. Even before arriving at Verena’s apartment in the Neustadt in the evening, I heard loud cracking and popping sounds all day in my usually quiet neighborhood; I should have realized that that was only a small sign of the firework enthusiasm I would later experience that evening.
Much like the yearly holiday showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story,” Germans enjoy watching a short film titled, “Dinner for One” or “Der. 90. Geburtstag” on New Year’s Eve. Afterwards we ate the traditional jelly-donuts ‘Berliners’ and also did the traditional ‘lead pouring’ called ‘Bleigießen.’ This process involves melting lead shapes on a spoon over a candle, pouring the liquid into a pot of cold water and then telling fortunes from the shapes formed in the water.
We then decided to brave the streets to watch the fireworks along the Weser River. Words cannot describe how chaotic and wild everything was. Little kids were handed rockets to set off, groups would walk along and toss fire-crackers in the streets and at cars driving by, and the cracks, pops and whistles were so deafening that it almost felt like I was in a war-zone. Unlike the big city-organized firework displays one finds in the United States, Germans buy and set off their own fireworks. Verena informed me that fireworks are only available during the few days before New Year’s and that otherwise you can’t find them in Germany, which helps account for their general pyro-enthusiasm. After lighting our own rather tame sparklers and toasting the New Year with some champagne, we managed to find our way back home through the smoke-filled streets. I hope to bring back some of the German traditions I learned!