Werner Walter of the Central Research Network for Unusual Sky Phenomena (CENAP) reported on Friday that thousands of Germans had called his organisation after spotting red and gold lights hanging eerily in the night sky.
But all these sightings were “nothing but hot air,” quipped the irritated Walter. The solution to this real X-Files mystery was a new miniature hot-air balloon, which has been sold this year at Christmas markets and garden centres all over the country.
Marketed as a silent alternative to the traditional New Year's fireworks, the hot-air balloons have caught on, and many were launched during the holidays.
These Himmelslaternen, or “Sky Lanterns,” are essentially paper balloons suspended by a naked flame. They are not necessarily a safe alternative to fireworks, and the fire service has warned users not to release them in windy conditions near houses, trees, or dry meadows.