Germany’s most typical New Year’s greeting literally means “good slide,” but it has nothing to do with slipping on ice or even sliding smoothly into the new year.
The word “Rutsch” can be translated as slide, fall or slip, which may conjure up images of slippery winter roads or drunken falls – after all, Germans tend to celebrate late into the night on New Year’s Eve. And truthfully, even many Germans believe there is a connection.
The exact origin of “Guten Rutsch!” is unknown, but most likely, the phrase is derived from the Yiddish “a git Rosch,” a greeting used around the Jewish New Year, Rosch Haschanah (literally: head of the year). The Hebrew saying “a git Rosch” means “a good head” or “a good beginning”, referring to a good start into the new year.
Germany is the only country in the world where people “slide” into the new year, perhaps with the exception of some German speaking people in Austria or Switzerland. Variations of the idiom include Rutsch gut ins neue Jahr! (“slide well into the new year”) or Rutsch gut rüber! (“slide well across”).
We hope that you, too, had einen guten Rutsch last night and wish you all the best for 2018!
(Illustration © Roland Hallmeier)