“The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?” is the first part of a quote from the famous TV Short “Dinner For One” from 1963, originally written by a British author, Laurie Wylie. Today I would like to introduce this work as it is an important part of my New Year’s traditions. Every December 31st of the year I work in the small private theatre next to my family’s home where Dinner for One is performed.
In the comedy sketch, Miss Sophie celebrates her 90th birthday, inviting her friends Sir Toby, Admiral von Schneider, Mr Pomeroy, and Mr Winterbottom for a special dinner. Unfortunately, Miss Sophie is the last one of their little group which leads her to ask her butler James to impersonate her friends so she can still have their annual birthday dinner. Each course is accompanied by a round of drinks for a toast, which James has to take for every missing guest after every meal. Because of this, he is intoxicated rather quickly and it becomes more and more difficult to properly serve Miss Sophie and her imaginary guests.
The sketch has several running gags such as:
- The Tiger Rug→ James constantly trips over its head
- Sir Toby always has a little bit more in his glass than the others
- Skål– James has to tap his heels every time and say Skål which is Scandinavian and translates to cheers
Dinner for One has become a tradition for many Germans on December 31. Every year, people decide to watch a black-and-white short movie of only 18 minutes which is screened with an English dialogue. Most of the German regional channels start playing the classic in the early evening hours and one can find at least one channel playing it until midnight. The TV Short holds the Guinness World Record for the most replayed TV program ever and many parodies have been published.
However, while this is a New Year’s Eve tradition for many Germans, people on the British Isles have their traditions and customs.
- Hogmanay, Scotland
- The Scottish 3-day festival to celebrate New Year’s Eve is one of the most important holidays. The Scots have many customs for these days, one of them being first-footing which begins when the clock strikes midnight. This refers to the first person crossing the threshold of a Scottish home who brings gifts, traditionally coal. Furthermore, the traditional song Auld Lang Syne is sung together. The title can be translated into ‘since long ago’ or ‘for old times sake’ and its lyrics tell a story of old friends sharing some drinks, reminiscing their old adventures.
- The Welsh word means New Year’s Celebration and comes close to trick or treating on Halloween. The children go from door to door and sing songs in return for money or sweets.
- Mari Lwyd
- This is also a Welsh New Year’s tradition from the folk culture of South Wales. Here, a decorated horse head can be found on a pole and locals carry it around town. It is seen as a sign of good luck and after its departure, it is said to leave good fortune to the house it approached or entered.
Did you already know these New Year’s traditions? Have you ever practised them yourself? Will you watch Dinner for One this year?
And with Miss Sophie’s words “Same procedure as every year“, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and to a new year full of hopes, dreams and loads of new literature.
Greetings from our Dinner for One Team in the Theater an der Angel in Magdeburg. (Private Picture)