A German New Year

With the first day of 2013 in its final hour (at least it is if you live on CET) it seems like the perfect time to share my experiences of my very first German New Year.

After gathering at a flat in Frankfurt for drinks and nibbles, myself and four friends chose to brave the city centre and head out to the River Main. An uncharacteristically warm (by December standards anyway) winter’s night we took the short bus ride into the centre to see what it is that the Germans do to welcome the new year.

 

Fireworks on the riverside. Frankfurt am Main.

There are few words to describe the atmosphere we experienced as made our tentative way along the riverside. It was one of merriment, awe and high jinx as you might expect on December 31st. It was also one of adrenaline, bangs, whooshes and slight fear.

Apparently, a German New Year’s Eve involves explosions and alcohol. Lots of them.

You see, the German law on fireworks and their use in public appear to be somewhat different to that of the UK. While London Borough Council will have, no doubt, meticulously spent months planning the capital’s traditional Thames firework display, in Frankfurt firework displays are left to the general public to co-ordinate.

If you turn up to the banks of the River Main at around 11pm on New Year’s Eve, or Silvester as the Germans call it, you will be greeted by many a reveler, armed with copious amounts of alcohol and a good handful or five of fireworks.

Midnight celebrations.

As we were cheerily dispatched by the bus driver nowhere near a bus stop, we stepped into the throng. Right next to a taxi parked up at the edge of a cordon, blasting out dance tunes. We walked further down the water’s edge and it was at this point we discovered why people had warned us against venturing to the Main on Silvester.

At every step we found ourselves dodging people, discarded bottles and, slightly more worryingly, fireworks.

And this is the thing about New Year’s Eve in Frankfurt. There are fireworks everywhere. And the majority of them are in the hands of the inebriated. British heath and safety execs would be having a field day (and the Fire Service would be horrified!) as multiple fireworks are set off far too close to gathered crowds.

This all results in a strange mix up of excitement, celebration and fear as fireworks go off all around you. As you stand there (seeking protection from the nearest tree – because if you’re near a tree, you’re safer right?) you find yourself trying to figure out where to look – not just because of the spectacular display of fireworks going off at random all over the place, but also because one of those fireworks could be heading straight for you.

All in all though, it was a great night, unlike any other I’ve ever experienced either in the UK or Germany. And while I’ll steer clear of bringing my own fireworks next year (just too much room for error and injury) I still think I’ll venture to the Main to see in 2014. Happy New Year!

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