How to celebrate New Year’s Eve like an Austrian

The Local Austria
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How to celebrate New Year’s Eve like an Austrian
Photo: Andre Karwath/Wikimedia

New Year’s Eve is known as Silvester in Austria, referring to the anniversary of Saint Sylvester's death. Here’s how to celebrate Austrian-style.


Brew some punch.

A traditional drink for New Year’s Eve is a punch made with red wine, cinnamon and sugar, which is dedicated to Saint Sylvester. It can also be made with rum and fruit juices. 


Stock up on these little good-luck charms and trinkets to give to your friends on New Year’s Eve. You may have noticed that the Christmas markets have made way for small stands which are selling little marzipan or toy pigs, as well as four-leaf clover charms, chimney sweeps, mushrooms, horseshoes and ladybirds. Pigs are considered lucky as they were traditionally a sign of wealth and prosperity - indicating that their owners would never go hungry.

Fortune-telling, Austrian-style

Bleigießen is an Austrian tradition of melting lead or tin as a way of predicting what the next year will hold for you. You can buy the Bleigießen kits at various shops or stands in most cities. You melt the lead in a spoon over a candle or a stove and pour it into a bowl of cold water. The form that the lead makes is used to predict what the future holds for you. For example, a bubbly surface can refer to money, a fragile or broken shape could mean misfortune. Ships refer to travelling, keys to career advancement, and a horse points to a new car

Serve up some pork and lentils

As pigs are considered lucky, it’s traditional for many Austrians to cook pork ribs, chops or a roast on New Year’s Eve - served with fresh horseradish and sometimes lentils. Lentils are also considered to be lucky as they are shaped like coins and indicate money and wealth for the New Year. Fish is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day, as it swims forward, taking you in the right direction for a fresh year. Cookies, chocolates and marzipan will also be prepared in the shape of a pig or a fish, and green peppermint ice-cream is sometimes served in the shape of a four-leaf clover.

Waltz into the New Year

If you tune into the national broadcaster ORF, it will be playing the Donauwalzer, the traditional song to accompany the first moments of the New Year. If you find a good dance partner, then this is the moment to do a midnight waltz.

Guten Rutsch!

Wish your friends a Guten Rutsch before midnight (which translates as “sliding well into the next year” and a Frohes neues Jahr after the clock has struck 12. It’s traditional to hug and kiss your fellow party guests, and then sit back and enjoy the fireworks displays.



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