Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
In many, many German households, just before dinnertime on New Year’s Eve, everyone gathers around the TV to watch a black and white 1963 taping of the short British play Dinner for One. This comedic sketch is about a well-to-do English woman’s 90th birthday dinner. Birthday girl Miss Sophie seems to have outlived her friends, as James, faithful long-time servant, plays the part of all four dinner guests. Each course of the dinner is paired with an appropriate beverage – sherry with the soup, white wine with the fish, champagne with the chicken and sherry with dessert. James becomes increasingly tipsy as he drinks from each guest’s glass during each of the four courses.
At every phase of the operation James asks, “The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?”
Each time, Miss Sophie responds, “The same procedure as every year, James!” She sounds pleased that things are coming along nicely.
Most Americans won’t get it, though Monty Python fans may catch on. Anyone who has used “and now for something completely different,” in casual conversation probably has a built-in sympathy for cult classics like Dinner for One.
Though half of Germany watches this ten-minute film every New Year’s Eve, and the phrase “same procedure as every year” has become a part of German culture, nobody knows exactly why. Dinner for One is not about New Year’s Eve, and it’s not even in German. Outside of Germany it’s obscure to the point of being unknown. Inside Germany it’s been a New Year’s Eve tradition since the early 70’s.
I like the absurdity of this silly bit of tradition. It reminds me that not everything has to make sense or be wise. Speaking of which, check it out in legos.
Readers have told me that Dinner for One is a long-standing New Year’s Eve tradition for the Dutch and Austrians. Would anyone else like to chime in? Is it currently played in South Africa? How about Switzerland, Luxembourg, the UK or France?