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Have you heard of ‘Dinner for One’?

A seaside sketch from the 1950s is integral to Germany’s New Year celebrations

So that was the holiday season, done and dusted for another year. Christmas decorations will be coming down across the world, and all over Germany those celebrated Christmas Markets will have vanished from town centre squares. The time has come to knuckle down to diets, detoxes and New Year’s resolutions.

These days the key ingredients of the holiday season are pretty much universal experiences in the West, but there is one peculiarly English piece of seasonal tradition which is a surprising hit in Germany in particular, and to some extent in surrounding countries. It comes in the shape of an old piece of variety theatre that most of the rest of the world has never heard of: it is called ‘Dinner for One.’

This 11 minute comedy sketch starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden was performed in seaside theatres and end-of-the-pier revues in Britain in the 1950s and early 1960s, since when it has completely disappeared in the UK – only to rise like a phoenix in Germany and many other European nations, to become the most often-repeated television programme ever. In Germany, it is aired on virtually every television channel over Silvester (New Year’s Eve), and on many channels more than once.

The sketch was spotted by German theatre director Heinz Dunkhase, who invited Frinton and Warden over to Hamburg in 1963 to perform and film it in front of a live audience. The recording was first aired on New Year’s Eve in 1972 and has become more and more popular ever since.

Apart from a colour re-touching in some versions, the sketch remains unaltered from the original, and is broadcast without subtitles. Many German households know all its lines, particularly catchphrases such as ‘same procedure as every year.’ It is amusing, albeit dated (judge for yourself here), and it is nice to think that, having taken much of Germany’s Christmas to our hearts, we’ve at least given them something back for New Year.

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