The winter holiday season in Germany is very festive and special with Christmas as the biggest celebration of the year. However, New Year’s, or Silvester in German, is not to be forgotten with unique traditions of its own. We all know about the spectacular fireworks but today I’d like to tell you a bit about “Dinner for One,” a classic holiday tradition in Germany that you probably have never heard of.
“Dinner for One,” is a short black-and-white sketch about ten minutes long that is played on all the big German television networks on New Year’s Eve. It was first broadcast in Germany by Norddeutscher Rundfunk, or NDR, in 1962. Up to half of the German population today watch it at least once in the evening to celebrate the holiday. You might be pleasantly surprised that it is entirely in English! Ironically, it is not well-known at all in England and the rest of the English-speaking world. Germany is skilled at dubbing foreign language movies, so it is not as common to watch foreign language content in its original language. However, Dinner for One remains untouched, even with no subtitles. So, what makes it so popular among Germans?
The story is about an old woman, Miss Sophie, celebrating her 90th birthday. The sketch takes place in her dining room, where she sits alone at the head of the table. She has outlived her friends that she normally invites to her birthday dinner, so instead she makes her butler act as each of them in turn, contributing to the conversation as they would. He also then drinks for each of them every course of the dinner, totaling sixteen drinks, and cheers as they would after each. The sketch is very repetitive with classic catchphrases for each person, which most Germans can quote freely. The saying by Miss Sophie after giving instructions to her butler, “the same procedure as every year,” has made it into mainstream language and can even be found in German news headlines. Each of the running gags become more exaggerated as the butler drinks more and more. It ends with a double entendre, making the whole situation even more ridiculous. The skit plays on a lot of post-war issues, as well as fitting in with the present-day German drinking culture.
The first time I watched Dinner for One, I was delighted to see how some of my boyfriend’s family members still laughed a lot at the jokes despite having seen the sketch countless times. The skit is so sensationalised that there are Dinner for One advent calendars, postage stamps, calendars, and other merchandise. Here is a link to the skit and I hope you’ll watch it to celebrate the new year the German way!
BY Kenna Rosalie Howorth (UK & USA) | CLASS OF 2023