Like most countries, Austrians love to make a lot of noise at New Year's eve, so expect many loud explosions and fireworks. Pet owners should be careful to ensure that cats and dogs are well-prepared and protected from the trauma of fireworks.
Visitors to Vienna may wish to enjoy the New Year in St. Stephen's Square (Stephansplatz), but be warned, it will be extremely crowded, so agoraphobes and ochlophobes are advised to steer well clear of the event. Usually, the crowds are so bad that the U1 station at Stephansplatz is shut down for the evening, so ensure your travel plans take this into account.
Pope Sylvester. Photo: San Silvestro Chapel at Santi Quattro Coronati, Rome
The last night of the year is known in Austria as the Holy Sylvester, which is traditionally the night of fools, frolics and good times. According to legend, the saint of this day Pope Sylvester I, healed people of leprosy, and baptized the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.
It was at this point in history that the fate of the Christian Church turned as persecutions ended and the Occident was won for Christianity. Pope Sylvester led the Church from 314 until his death, December 31, 335 into a period of relative peace.
A Bleigiessen set. Photo: Micha L. Rieser
At the end of December, large numbers of Austrians go to Christmas markets, and buy large spoons with half a dozen or so small silvery packages. No, they're not scoring crystal meth or heroin wraps — rather, they're participating in an ancient ritual that has its origins in classical Greece.
The packages are small objects made from tin or lead, and the spoon is used to melt the metal into a liquid, which is then dropped into a bowl of water. The resulting shape is then examined, and predictions can be made about what's coming up in the new year.
It's a form of scrying, using molten metal to trigger the unconscious. There are dozens of different possible interpretations, but some of the more popular ones include:
|Interpretation of the lead figures||Meaning|
|Acker (field)||luck and happiness|
|ähren (grain head)||your wishes will be fulfilled|
|Adler (eagle)||profit in your job|
|Amboss (anvil)||be careful with your job|
|Anker (anchor)||you will receive help from others|
|Apfel (apple)||your trust will be broken|
|Auto (car)||promising venture or enterprise|
|Automat (vending machine)||be careful with spending|
|Baum (tree)||growth in your capabilities|
|Becher (mug)||luck and health|
|Beil (axe)||disappointment in love|
|Besen (broom)||conflict or small argument|
|Beutel (bag)||unexpected luck|
|Biene (bee)||prospect of marriage|
|Blumen (flowers)||new friendships will develop|
|Bock (ram)||expect an inheritance|
|Bombe (bomb)||you will escape danger|
|Boten mit Brief (messenger with letter)||you will receive important news soon|
|Brille (glasses)||you will live to be old|
|Brücke (bridge)||you will form new ties|
|Brunnen (fountain)||deep love for everyone|
|Burg (fortress)||you wish for change|
|Chrysanthemen (Chrysanthemum)||someone needs your help|
|Degen (sword)||cutting change|
|Denkmal (monument)||you overestimate yourself|
|Dolch (dagger)||you will be victorious|
|Dreieck (triangle)||finances improve|
|Ei (egg)||your family will grow|
|Eidechse (lizard)||big annoyance that goes away quickly|
|Eimer (pail)||satisfaction with relationships|
|Eisenbahn (train)||departure from a friend|
|Elefant (elephant)||you have good powers of comprehension|
|Engel (angel)||good will come to you|
|Erdwall (earthen dam)||you will be successful only through trouble|
|Fahne, wehend (waving flag)||your heart and thoughts are in different places|
|Falke (falcon)||someone is jealous of you|
|Faust (fist)||you feel that you have been pushed back|
|Feder (feather)||change in your home|
|Felsen (cliffs)||much work to come|
|Fische (fish)||people are talking about you|
|Flakon (phial, small bottle)||don't let anyone "pull your leg"|
|Flasche (bottle)||happy times to come|
|Flugzeug (airplane)||good luck in open competition|
|Frosch (frog)||you will eventually win much money in a lotterie|
|Gabel (fork)||quarrels and arguments|
|Galgen (gallows)||be wary of false friends|
|Garten (garden)||new love in your path|
|Gebüsch (bush)||acknowledge the accomplishments of others|
|Geweih (antlers)||misfortune in love|
|Gewichte (scales)||success in business|
|Gitarre (guitar)||secret longings|
|Glocke (bell)||inheritance coming into view|
|Gondel (gondola)||an adventure is approaching|
|Hahn (rooster)||be careful of fire|
|Haken (hook)||obstacles will come into your path|
|Hammer (hammer)||you will get your way|
|Hase (rabbit)||hang onto your luck|
|Haus (house)||your ventures will go well|
|Hose (pants)||you will be ridiculed|
|Hufeisen (horseshoe)||good business|
|Hut (hat)||good news|
|Igel (hedgehog)||people are envious of you|
|Insel (island)||you are lonely|
|Kahn (boat)||good luck in your intentions, plans|
|Käfer (beetle)||nice experience in love|
|Kamel (camel)||new duties|
|Kanzel (pulpit)||you like to be right|
|Kapelle (chapel)||longing for peace and quiet|
|Karpfen (carp)||unexpected raise in salary|
|Karussell (merry-go-round)||dumb jokes from acquaintances|
|Kegel (ninepin)||be careful in business|
|Kelch (chalice)||your future will be happy|
|Kirche (church)||you will start a household soon|
|Klee (clover)||satisfaction and luck|
|Korb (basket)||lucky in love|
|Kranz (wreath)||reconciliation in your circle of friends|
|Krone (crown)||you will use official position|
|Kuchen (cake)||festivity is coming|
|Kugel (ball)||don't take your bad mood out on others|
|Kuh (cow)||cure from sickness|
|Lanze (lance)||someone wants to fight with you|
|Leiter (ladder)||advancement in your job|
|Leiter, zerbrechen (broken ladder)||make decisions faster|
|Leuchter (candlestick)||you will "see the light" (understand, get an idea)|
|Leuchtturm (lamppost)||don't give up on your goals|
|Löffel (spoon)||people are talking about you|
|Mauerr (wall)||your perseverance will pay off|
|Mond (moon)||you may expect honor|
|Nagel (nail)||better times coming|
|Nest mit Eiern oder Vögeln (nest w/eggs or birds)||a happy home will soon be started|
|Orgel (organ)||you'll play your way through life|
|Palme (palm tree)||a long-cherished wish will be fulfilled|
|Pantoffel (slipper)||you will get married soon|
|Peitsche (whip)||you need a strong hand|
|Pistole (pistol)||you will cheat in love|
|Pfeife (pipe)||be careful—danger approaches|
|Pflug (plow)||you must work harder at your job|
|Rad (wheel)||big changes coming|
|Regenschirm (umbrella)||be hopeful, and avoid unpleasantness|
|Säge (saw)||a separation, which is advantageous, is coming|
|Säule (pillar)||a wish will remain unfulfilled|
|Segelboot (sailboat)||good advancement in your job|
|Sichel (sicle)||don't scorn the little joys of life|
|Schere (scissors)||important decisions coming|
|Schaukel (swing)||make up your mind|
|Schlange (snake)||people are envious of your success|
|Schlitten (sled)||make your relationships fit yourself|
|Schluessel (key)||let others keep their secrets|
|Schornsteinfeger (chimney sweep)||luck in love|
|Schraubstock (bench vice)||hang on tight to what you have|
|Schwamm (sponge)||clean your soul|
|Schwein (pig)||luck in play, games|
|Schuh (shoe)||you'll have to do a lot of running around soon|
|Spinne (spider)||your luck hangs on a silken thread|
|Storch (stork)||you will travel|
|Stock (stick, staff)||your life will turn around|
|Tänzerin (dancer)||don't take life so seriously|
|Tisch (table)||soon you will be invited to a party|
|Teller (plate)||you'll have opportunity for generosity|
|Tor (gate)||you'll change your place of residence|
|Trauring (engagement ring)|| you'll be engaged soon *OR*
warning of upcoming escapades
|Treppen (steps)||new assignments await you|
|Trompete (trumpet)||you will soon gain public office|
|Trichter (funnel)||protect your strength|
|Tunnel (tunnel)||you will recover from a horrible fright|
|Turm (tower)||have more courage in your ____ _______|
|Urne (urn)||don't grieve about the past|
|Vogel (bird)||good luck coming|
|Wiege (cradle)||you will take part in a baptism|
|Zaun (fence)||you have to explain a misunderstanding|
|Zeppelin (zeppelin)||gleaming advancement opportunities await you|
|Zylinder (top hat)||serious matters ahead|
Half the fun consists in arguing with family members about the resemblance of the shape to one of the listed objects – and of course, interpretations may vary as to what an object might mean.
Sometimes it's helpful to hold the resulting cast up near a candle, and study its shadow on the wall. If you're really keen, it might help to recite this poem too:
In der Silvester-Nacht
wird das Blei zum Schmelzen gebracht.
Es wird gekippt in Wasser, kalt und klar;
rate, was stellen die Figuren dar?
Schau sie an, so wie sie sind;
rätst die Gestalt du nicht geschwind.
Halt sie hinters Licht,
das Schattenbild dir mehr verspricht.
Kommt es dir nicht in den Sinn,
schau auf dieses Büchlein hin.
Es sagt dir frank und frei,
"Dinner for One"
"The same procedure as every year, James." This English line has become a familiar catchphrase in the German-speaking world. It's part of an annual German custom that began in 1963 when German TV first broadcast a 14-minute British stage sketch entitled "Dinner for One."
Almost no-one in Britain is familiar with the program, so visitors and expats are usually very puzzled when their Austrian hosts and friends insist on watching this obscure piece of English music-hall theater.
There are two versions floating around – the original version from 1963 in black and white, and a remake in colour using the same actors a few years later. We recommend watching the older version, to appreciate the full ambience.
If you are having dinner at this time of year a dish of lentil soup with Wiener Würstchen is popular, especially since it can be prepared well in advance.
Are you fond of fondue? Photo: Hic et nunc/Wikimedia
Another popular dish at New Year is a meat or cheese fondue, introduced from Switzerland. Here's a popular recipe:
300 g Emmentaler
300 g Greyerzer
1 clove garlic
1/2 l dry white wine
4 table spoons Kirschwasser (German cherry brandy)
2 tea spoons starch
freshly ground pepper, nutmeg
2 sticks French bread or baguettes
Grind cheese by hand or with a grinder, rub Fondue kettle with garlic, add white wine and place on fire, slowly add cheese and stir continuously until melted. Mix starch and Kirschwasser (cherry brandy), pour into cheese mass and mix, add pepper and nutmeg to taste. Cut bread ahead of time into cubes, dip with Fondue sticks. Dry white wine can also be served.
The Feuerzangenbowle with a burning Zuckerhut. Photo: Kore Nordmann/Wikimedia
Fire-tongs Punch (Feuerzangenbowle)
Austrians love to set things on fire, and this special New Year's drink is no exception. The Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine, which was made popular by the 1944 German film of the same name.
Feuerzangenbowle is prepared in a bowl, similar to a fondue set, which usually is suspended over a small burner (rechaud). The bowl is filled with heated dry red wine spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise and orange peel, similar to mulled wine.
The Feuerzange was originally a pair of tongs, but nowadays it is common for a purpose-designed metal grate mounted on top of the bowl to hold the Zuckerhut (sugarloaf or literally "sugar hat"), a sugar cone around seven inches long.
More rum is poured with a ladle until all the sugar has melted and mixed with the wine. The resulting punch is served in mugs while the burner keeps the bowl warm. For some the ceremony is more important than the drink itself, celebrating the gathering of friends and conveying a notion of Gemütlichkeit.
2 bottles white wine
1/2 lemon1 orange
1/2 bottle dry sherry
1/2 bottle arrack
1 sugar loaf
2 cloves, 1 stick cinnamon
Press lemon, orange, cloves and cinnamon into wine and bring almost to a boil; place sugar loaf over kettle, either on a special holder or on two metal rods. Pour arrack on sugar and light with a match, keep dripping arrack on flaming sugar until all sugar has dissolved and dripped into the wine. Red wine and rum may also be used in place of arrack.
The Local wishes all our readers a good trip into the New Year!