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December 30, 2021

Happy New Year - - Ugh, my Jelly Donut was Filled with Mustard?!

2022 Happy New Year


Growing up in Northern Germany, we counted down to the New Year and new beginnings like everyone around the world. Leading up to midnight, our house quickly filled with friends, relatives, and neighbors wearing funny hats and masks for the big year-end celebration.  Our house was at the edge of town.  Additionally, it was the last one on our street, and beyond it, there were endless farmland and pastures.  On top of that, my father had converted one of the large basement rooms into a “party” room complete with a dance floor. Needless to say, it was the perfect place for a celebration without disturbing a soul. 


Some of the guests would arrive carrying large, empty bowls and shopping bags full of “ingredients”.  The bowls were to prepare the "Bowle", which is German for punch. A “Bowle” is the must-have party drink on New Year's Eve. Depending on the family recipe, one would typically combine fruits, alcohol, sparkling soda, and juice.  At our house, there was a delicious alcohol-free Bowle for the children and a spiked one for the adults.


There would be food laid out in Smorgasbord fashion: finger sandwiches with cold cuts, cheeses, shrimp salad, pickled herring, smoked salmon, etc., and fruit, cookies, and nuts.  And of course, add to that lots of good humor, laughing and dancing!


About fifteen minutes before midnight, the anticipation of everyone would be growing.  Noisemakers and streamers were handed out.  As we counted down to midnight, there was a frenzy of the loud crazy sounds of the noisemakers.  Traditionally, loud noises were believed to drive out evil spirits.

Happy New Year

Jump into the New Year!

Furthermore, we would climb onto a chair or stool, and in unison count down the old year: 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!  And as the clock struck midnight, we would “jump into the New Year” tossing the streamers in the air over one another.  This was to symbolize being free of the burdens of the old year and leaving all of last year’s bad things behind and to be free for a fresh start in the New Year. I invite you to read my post called: Leave the Old Behind. AND Jump! Into! The! New! Year!

As I mentioned, we would wear funny hats and masks.  Some would wear top hats like the chimney sweeps in town. 

Chimney Sweep Good Luck Charm

You see, a chimney sweep is a good luck symbol in Northern Germany.  After the clock struck midnight, we would toast one another with “Sekt” (German sparkling wine).  The German New Year’s toast is very specific: "Prosit Neujahr." The word "Prosit" comes from Latin and means "may it succeed."   

Prosit Neujahr

After the “Prosit Neujahr” toast, we would remove our party hats and masks and jubilantly toss them up in the air.  It was akin to the traditions of masked balls in other parts of Europe, where removing your mask was viewed as an act of purification, so was our tradition of tossing our hats and masks in the air.


Next, we would step outside into the cold night, where the adults would shoot off fireworks and we children were given sparklers. 

Happy New Year Sparkler

Once more, the tradition was that loud noises and the artificial “lightening” of the fireworks and sparklers were believed to drive out evil spirits.

Happy New Year Fireworks

Once the fireworks were over, we headed back inside.  This time we were greeted with warm jelly-filled donuts that were dusted with powdered sugar, called “Berliner” in Northern Germany.  This is another tradition that links eating these deep-fried dough balls to ward off evil spirits in the New Year. 

Berliner Jelly Filled Doughnuts

As a practical joke and to one guest’s surprise, though, one of the donuts would not be filled with jelly, but “Loewensenf” (German for “lion’s mustard”, a really strong, sharp mustard, killer mustard, strong enough to curl your hair!)  You should have seen the expression on the face of the victim!  Quick, give him a chaser of Sekt! – In complicity with the host, the local baker, with all his or her skill, of course, would put a dab of the red jelly on the outside of the mustard-filled Berliner, as not to tip off the victim.


At the end of the evening, as guests departed, my grandmother, whom we lovingly called “BonBon Oma” (Candy Grandma) would give everyone some more lucky charms for the New Year.  These were sculpted out of marzipan (almond paste) and shaped like "Glückspilze" (lucky mushrooms), “Glücksklee” (four-leaf clovers) and “Marzipanschweinchen”, little piglets sculpted out of marzipan, or a “Glückspfennig” (lucky penny) made of chocolate and covered with gold foil.  These lucky charms would signify, that you would have good luck for the coming year, remain healthy, not to go hungry, and be successful.

Marzipanschweinchen Gluecksklee Glueckstaler

So, the moral of the story is, that if a German gives you a little piglet made out of Marzipan, they do not mean to imply that they think you are fat!  Oh, no!  Rather it is to wish you the best of luck in the coming year.


And with this, I wish all of my readers a happy, healthy, successful, safe, and blessed New Year, and may all your New Year’s wishes come true. 



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