State by state: What are Germany’s rules for New Year’s Eve?

State by state: What are Germany's rules for New Year's Eve?
The city of Rottweil hangs a sign about a ban on setting off fireworks. Photo: DPA
Loud, colourful and crowded - normally New Year’s Eve is a bustling night filled with fireworks and parties. But both will only be possible at the end of 2020 to a limited degree.

According to the German government, private gatherings between one's own household and one other household are permitted on New Year's Eve. A maximum of five people are allowed to meet, although children through the age of 14 aren’t counted. 

What about fireworks?

Setting off fireworks is a popular German tradition, with several cities turning into small war zones. So it comes as little surprise that the sale of fireworks has been banned this year.

READ ALSO: Why many German cities become a fireworks hell on New Year's Eve

But there are still some exceptions.

Anyone who still has fireworks from previous years isn’t strictly forbidden from igniting them (though around Germany there are several firework ban zones). Yet these should not be set off, recommended the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing. 

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The reason is that fireworks that have been stored for a longer period of time may lose their function or react more slowly due to the absorption of moisture. Fireworks that have been stored can also change their function and react faster or slower.

Retailers are still allowed to sell sparklers, table fireworks and so-called children's fireworks. The Corona Protection Ordinances of Germany's 16 states are usually referring to firecrackers in public places and streets.

The ban does not apply for the most part to the ignition of fireworks in private spaces – but there are different regulations for each state. 

State by state rules

Here’s a look at the rules state by state. Note that in many states there’s a strict curfew as early as 8 pm, so plan to celebrate at home this year, or stay overnight if you’re ringing in the New Year with good friends or family. 

Baden-Württemberg: Rockets and firecrackers can only be set off in one's own garden on New Year's Eve. It’s only possible to leave one’s home after 8 p.m. for a “good reason”.

Bavaria: Throughout Bavaria, the carrying or setting off of fireworks is prohibited on New Year's Eve in popular public places. Each city or district has its own list of such locations. Fireworks from previous years can be set off on private property such as a garden or balcony – but in some cities as well as in the Middle Franconia region, even this is prohibited.

The curfew of 9 pm to 5 am applies for the whole state unless there’s an urgent reason – sorry, but getting home after the countdown does not count. 

Berlin: Firecrackers are banned in many places in the capital: The Berlin Senate published a list of 56 places – including landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate. Despite the ban on the sale of fireworks, the Berlin Fire Department is preparing for the state of emergency on New Year's Eve in the same way as in previous years.

READ ALSO: IN PICS: Berlin brings in 2020 with fireworks and winter bathing

Berlin residents line up at a shop in Köpenick to buy 'table fireworks' on December 15th before stores closed nationwide. Photo: DPA

Brandenburg: It is possible to set off fireworks in Brandenburg, but only on your private property. The state government has strongly advised setting them off at all. 

Berlin’s neighbouring state’s curfew restrictions will also be relaxed on Silvester. Residents will be allowed out and about until 2 am on January 1st (instead of the usual 10 pm).

Bremen: New Year's Eve fireworks are generally prohibited here, as the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven have a ban on burning fireworks. This means that people are not allowed to set off rockets and firecrackers that they already have at home, for example from the previous year.

Small fireworks such as sparklers and firecrackers, which can be bought all year round, may be used.

Hamburg: The sale and ignition of fireworks are generally prohibited this year, according to the State Senate press office. “Only small fireworks such as sparklers or table fireworks are allowed,” the spokeswoman added. 

According to the local coronavirus ordinance, this applies not only in public places, but also in one's own garden or on the balcony.

Despite the nationwide shutdown, relatives of Hamburg residents could stay in hotels for Christmas. This no longer applies to the turn of the year, stressed the Senate spokeswoman.

Hesse: The sale of fireworks and firecrackers is prohibited this year, and in many places it is also not allowed to ignite last year's stocks. Each local city or district publishes a list of where this is allowed and isn’t. Frankfurt and Offenbach, for example, have issued a fireworks ban for several areas within the city.

In public, only gatherings of a maximum of five people from two households are permitted. For celebrations at home, compliance with the rules is “strongly recommended,” said the state government.

For the last night of the year, people in the counties with nighttime curfews have also been told that they can’t leave their homes after 9 pm without a valid reason. 

Lower Saxony: On busy streets, roads and squares, the burning of fireworks and also the carrying of firecrackers and rockets is prohibited. 

North Rhine-Westphalia: Parties are prohibited. According to the Corona Protection Ordinance, gatherings with friends or family on New Year's Eve within one's own four walls are not limited by a guest count. In some cities and districts particularly affected by the coronavirus, a nighttime curfew also applies. For example, in the district of Gütersloh, people are required to stay indoors between 10 pm and 5 am.

Whether fireworks may be set off with firecrackers purchased earlier varies from city to city. In the state capital Düsseldorf, for example, there is a ban on fireworks in the entire old town. In Bonn, firecrackers are banned in public areas throughout the city.

Rhineland-Palatinate: The burning of fireworks in public places and streets is completely prohibited. The municipalities determine exactly which places are affected.

In Ludwigshafen, Speyer and Frankenthal nighttime curfew restrictions remain in effect until January 10th due to high infection rates. People are only allowed to leave the house between 9 pm and 5 am in justified exceptional cases.

Saxony: The current Saxony Corona Protection Ordinance prohibits the sale of fireworks, and “strongly advises against” burning off fireworks left over from last year. However, the relevant municipal authorities could order a ban on the setting off of fireworks in busy public places.

The curfew between 10 pm and 6 am does not apply on New Year's Eve.

Fireworks in Dresden in May to celebrate restaurants opening again. Photo: DPA

Saxony-Anhalt: Most municipalities allow setting off New Year's Eve rockets and firecrackers that are left over from last year – but a handful have banned them.

Saarland: Setting off fireworks in public is prohibited, and discouraged on your own property. “In addition, local police authorities may prohibit both the ignition of pyrotechnics and the consumption of alcoholic beverages in busy squares and streets,” the state's site says.

Schleswig-Holstein: Anyone who still has rockets or firecrackers left over from last year is not allowed to set them off in inner-city locations in Kiel, Flensburg or Lübeck, for example. The district of Schleswig-Flensburg generally prohibits the setting off of fireworks in built-up areas. On islands such as Sylt or the North Sea resort of St. Peter-Ording, fireworks are banned every year anyway for fire safety reasons due to thatched roof houses.

The traditional “Rummelpottlaufen” is allowed in the district of North Friesland under certain conditions: members of one household are allowed to ring the doorbell of another household. If the door is opened, all participants must comply with the distance rules.

Thuringia: Under Thuringia's Corona Ordinance, fireworks are prohibited on public streets, squares and in parks. Curfew restrictions also are in place from 10 pm until 3 am the next day.


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