How to Survive a Berlin New Year’s

Berlin FireworksFor the first time ever, I have returned to my childhood home in the Pacific Northwest to celebrate Christmas. Partly due to our new arrival and our desire for her to meet her American fam, it was also just time. Even with all the magic of German Weihnachten – sometimes all you want for Christmas is your family.

Not so for me and New Years. I have absolutely reveled in the debauchery of Berlin New Year’s (or Silvester).

Two Swedish girls are staying in our flat over the holiday and they asked if what they’ve heard about Silvester is true.  As described by Chloe, New Years in the Hauptstadt can be echt Wahnsinn. I watch “Dinner for One” over sekt cocktails, make drunken declarations for the new year and my husband nearly ended our lives over fireworks last New Years Eve. I’ll get to that story in a moment, but first I offer all the ways you may survive a Berlin New Year’s.

Escape

The first option is total avoidance. While I may thrill at the total depravity that comes with New Year’s celebrations, I know plenty of people (often native Berliners) who find the whole event repugnant. They flee the city as bumpkins from every backwoods corner of Germany and electronic club kid from around Europe stream in. The days surrounding the 31st/1st take on an entirely different feel in the city.

For options of where to go, I refer you to the German-Way section on Travel & Tourism.

Hide

You don’t need to leave the city to hide out from the Silvester crowds. While the skies explode outside, the usually terrible weather offers another excuse to cook up a batch of Glühwein and hibernate inside. Enjoy some leftover Weihnachtsgebäck for extra points.

Engage in the MadnessErin Berlin New YearsIn hard-partying Berlin, there are always events to distract from the changing of the year, or even the changing from day to night…and then back to day again. For your celebration, consider one of Berlin’s many clubs, the over-crowded concert (I hear the Hoff is back this year) and professional fireworks at Brandenburger Tor or make your own party at home or out on the streets.

Tip #1: For an authentic Berlin experience, you are going to need fireworks. Any child (or adult) with a limb can hold a firework – and they do. The city explodes from every street corner, balcony, window and rooftop and I couldn’t wait to take part.

Where to Buy Fireworks in Berlin

In the days leading up to the new year, you will notice the word “Feuerwerks” bandied about in banners and grocery leaflets. Fireworks are for sale everywhere from the discount grocery stores like Lidl and Aldi to pop-up shops throughout the city. You can buy giant sparklers, bottle rockets or even spectacular show worthy explosives. These are usually neatly packaged in variety packs for about 20 euros.

How to light a Bottle Rocket in Berlin

The enticing price, wide availability and expertise shown by everyone 5 years old and up had us buying our very own pack of fireworks a few years ago. But we have extremely limited experience – and it showed. Trooping everyone out to our balcony, we stuck a bottle rocket into the soil of a frozen planter and lit it. Things did not go well.

Apparently, that flimsy stick we used to anchor the firework actually needs to be free so it can be released as the firecracker launches into the air. Placing the firework in a bottle is ideal for this, thus the name.

I’d like to say the rest of our explosives went off without a hitch, but honestly they were only marginally more successful. On a positive note, none of us were maimed and nothing was permanently damaged (besides the rocket, which is kinda the point). If you find yourself similarly unable to resist blowing things up on this night, here are some easy to follow instructions to lighting a bottle rocket:

  1. Place your bottle rocket in a concrete block, a bottle or a tube. Make sure whatever you use that it is solid and sturdy and not easily tipped over.
  2. Set the bottle rocket or rockets into the bottle, tube or block at a 75-degree angle.
  3. Light the fuse at an arms length.
  4. Step back and stand at a safe distance as your discount rocket explodes.

Despite our lack of caution (success?), we’ve had an out and out fabulous time celebrating Silvester in Berlin. This city is built for mayhem and we have been happy to oblige. So while I will enjoy cuddling up to my baby and spending time with our much neglected State-side family this year, at the stroke of midnight I picture myself thinking of the Swedes in our flat in Berlin and wondering what kind of trouble they’ve gotten into.

How do you celebrate New Years? Have you ever been to Berlin for the celebration? Almost lost your life to a discount firework? Tell me about it in the comments!

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