Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Little New Year's Eve Memory and German Traditions

I hail from a long line of German ancestors and, it seems, German traditions hang on for generations.  My mother's paternal grandfather was born in Germany and her father was a staunch supporter of tradition.  My father's maternal grandfather and his paternal great-grandparents were born in Germany.  Germany is three generations or less away from America in my family.

Since my mom's parents lived just a few houses down the street from us it made sense that we celebrated many holidays together.  Mom sometimes invited my grandparents and others to our house on New Year's Eve.

Mom and Gramma would prepare platters of food for late-night snacks -- meat, cheese, chips, cookies, etc.  Perhaps we watched TV, played games, or just visited.  But as midnight rolled around and we began to eat, my father and Grampa would pull out the Limburger cheese.  (Maybe eating
Limburger on New Year's Eve is a tradition with only my family, but I've always assumed it was German.  I've never known any other person to eat Limburger at that time.  But truly, I don't know anyone else who ever eats Limburger.)

Oh, the stench of that cheese!  I'm glad I don't remember the smell and only just that it smelled.  I ran from the kitchen until my father and grandfather moved their sandwiches or whatever they made outside to our back porch.  Eating Limburger was a tradition for them, and running away from it was such a tradition for me.  I still don't understand how they could get the smell past their noses and into their mouths to eat it.  I'm grateful they were kind enough to take it outside. 

We must have had only German traditions to welcome the New Year because the other tradition was eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day.  Year in, year out, it was always pork and sauerkraut.  They said it brought good luck.  When I was a child I managed to eat the pork but not the kraut.  As an adult, I eat them separately -- the sauerkraut on a Reuben, or the pork as ham or a roast -- but I don't believe I've ever eaten them together.  If I were superstitious I might be concerned but I'm not.

After seeing numerous old New Year postcards with pigs on them, I researched the pork-brings-good-luck tradition but couldn't determine its origin.  My idea is that several German families a dozen or so generations ago happened to eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day and the next day happened upon a bounty of gold, or were somehow prevented from falling off a cliff, or their horses lived even after gorging themselves on grain, and those old Germans tied the events together.

Some traditions make more sense to me than others.  The ones around luck... not so much.

I wish you and yours a Happy New Year's Eve and if you eat pork and sauerkraut for good luck tomorrow, I hope it brings you a year's worth.


Copyright © 2017, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved.


  1. My mother emigrated from Germany in the 1920's. she came with her parents. My mother would eat Limburger cheese and so did her father. I never met either of my grandfather, because of early deaths.

    I do remember that it smelled really bad. I would call it a stench. Do they still sell it?

    1. Thanks for adding to my knowledge of Limburger, Claudia, at least so far as that it was a common cheese among people from Germany. Yes, they still sell Limburger. The photo of it above is one I took at a local specialty market. I have no idea why it didn't smell except that maybe the foil wrapping was really secure and kept the smell inside. Ha!

  2. My favorite meal in Germany was sausage and saurkraut. I think that would count for good luck if I could get some good German sausage today! I’ve never heard of the Limburger cheese tradition nor do I wish to start it.

    1. LOL. Yes, if I were you, Wendy, I would leave the Limburger alone. (Even being me, I leave it alone.)

      I'm sure it's hard to get "real" German sausage in the U.S. Is there a German restaurant near you where you might have better luck?

  3. Hi Nancy, we found your blog by searching for "limburger new years" to see if anyone else shared the New Years tradition passed down by our ancestors, some of which came from Neuenkirchen, Germany near the town of Limburgen. For generations the family has eaten Limberger Cheese and Pickled Herring on New Year's Eve and Pork and Sauerkraut for New Year's Day dinner. We've continued the tradition and have passed it on to our kids. We actually enjoy Limburger. When it's fresh, it's a mild tasting creamy cheese. We cut off the rind and discard it in a sealed bag before slicing and serving the cheese! Hope your New Year is filled with wonderful family discoveries!

  4. Thanks so much, Steve and Karen, for sharing you New Year's Eve and New Year's Day traditions. I guess Limberger was a German tradition, since I have German great-grandparents on both sides of my family.

  5. i'm going to share your story-My mom was all German and always had Limberger at New Years Eve.

    1. That's great, Ruth! Thanks for letting me know.


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