December 31st is called „Silvester“ or „Sylvester“, the 1st of January is called „Neujahr“ (New Year). The night between them is „Jahreswechsel“ (change of the year). (New Year’s Eve)
Here are a few ideas of how the new year can be celebrated in Austria
*countdown (60 seconds) before midnight
*Fireworks at midnight
*toast and cheers („Prosit Neujahr“ means something like new years cheers) at midnight
*Donauwalzer (a famous waltz by Strauß) and the bell’s of Vienna’s most famous church boadcasted at midnight. People actually dance when the walt is broadcasted.
*You should eat a Biskottenfisch (some sort of cookie shaped like a fish). There are various ideas about whether or not to start eating with the fish’s head.
*people exchange strange little plastic objects (pigs, clover, chimney-sweepers, mushrooms) that bring luck to the person receiving the present
*Neujahrsonzert: You spend the morning of the new year listening to good classical music and feel very classy
* Sylvesterparty: oftentimes too much alcohol is drunk (did I ever mention that I dislike New-Year-parties because drunken people get on my nerves?)
* pets turn mad because of the fireworks
* Silvestermeile: In the old-town of Vienna there is the „Silvestermeile“ (Silvester mile) where people gather to drink, chat, sing, watch fireworks etc. It is a little too crowded and the atmosphere is not exactly peaceful.
* some people believe that you should wear red underwear on Silvester ( I forgot why, though. Maybe to get rich?)
* „Blei gießen“ (lead pouring) is some kind of fortune-telling. On New Year’s Eve you put little lead figures on a spoon and melt them over a burning candle. Then you pour the liquid lead into a glass of water. The cold, hard lead takes the form of somthing that the next year will bring.
* New Years‘ resolution: You write down a resolution ( people usually go for „lose weight“, „reduce smoking“ or „spend less money“ – My plan for 2010 is to hand in my ph.d-thesis and to start with taekwondo again) about how you will lead a better life next year. You can also tell the person(s) you spend Silvester with about this plan of yours. Some families also have some controlling and improvement instruments (very management-like): People who fail to meet their resolution’s goals must do the dishes for a whole month.
*1st of January: toast and salmon are eaten
* Unluckily in Carinthia on the 1st of January Saurüssel is also eaten. A Saurüssel is a pig’s nose. It tastes like pork, but not like any kind I would really like to eat. Saurüssel is eaten with lenses and onions.
* 1st of January: You put burning incent (to be exact: burning coal and melting incent) on a little iron shovel and go round the house in a cloud of incent (some people call it scent) to chase away evil winter demons.
PS: I forgot to post about the Strohmann (strawman) who comes on december 27th in some regions of Carinthia. He looks scary (though he is friendly and brings luck). The strawman dances with women and is accompanied by young men who play accordion (and sometimes violine). I’m going to find out more and post about it next year.