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Culture

An English New Year's Eve Treat for Germans

Ask Germans about their New Year’s Eve traditions and they’re likely to mention “Dinner for One." Virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, the British sketch has been aired on German TV for 40 years.

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Same procedure as every year.

Not usually inclined to watch movies in their original language, Germans make one exception for "Dinner for One." Granted, there’s not much of a dialogue to follow, as the 15-minute, black-and-white sketch -- also known as "The 90th Birthday" -- mainly consists of a butler’s drunken babbling.

“Dinner for One” originated in British cabarets in the 1920s and was filmed for German public television in Hamburg in 1963. The story goes as follows: Miss Sophie has invited her four best friends to celebrate her 90th birthday. Since all of them are already dead, her butler James impersonates the quartet and toasts the birthday girl in lieu of them and gets helplessly drunk as the evening wears on:

James: Happy new year, Sophie gal ...

Miss Sophie: Mr. Winterbottom!

James: It's one of the nicest little women ...hick... one of the nicest little women, that's ever breathed, ever breathed... I now declare this bazaar opened! Would you like some fruit?

Miss Sophie: I think we'll have port with the fruit!

James: Oh, noo! S...ame procedure as last ...

Miss Sophie: Yes, same procedure as every year, James!

James: .....!!!...

Miss Sophie: Sir Toby! James: Sugar in the morning, sugar ...

Miss Sophie: Admiral von Schneider!

James: Ssskolll!

Miss Sophie: Mr. Pommeroy!

James: I'm sorry, madam, sorry.

Miss Sophie: Mr. Winterbottom!

James: ... huuuh, I'll kill that cat!

Miss Sophie: Well, James, it's been really a wonderful party!

James: Well, it's been mos... You're going to bed?

Miss Sophie: Yes.

James: Sit down, I'll give you a hand up, Madam.

Miss Sophie: As I was saying, I think, I'll retire ...

James: Ya... Ya. - By the way, the same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?

Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James! James: Well - I'll do my very best!