- Daily Zen
New Year food traditions and their ties to prosperity.
New Year’s Eve is a special time for celebration and togetherness. People celebrate it with different traditions and rituals, including sometimes preparing special New Year’s Eve food. Despite different customs and practices in place, one thing remains common- everyone wishes to ward off ill-luck and hopes that the new year will bring luck and joy in spades. Often a traditional New Year’s day meal consists of some special foods that hold a deep meaning and significance to one’s history and hopes.
Here are some of the not-so-ordinary New Year food traditions from across the globe:
In Spain, people eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight. They have one grape each for every chime as they hope for a prosperous new year. This is usually done at home with family, after dinner, or at public squares where people gather in large numbers to follow the chimes of the clock of the Royal House of the Post Office in Puerta del Sol. It started in the early 1900s and soon spread to other Hispanic communities.
Colombians love food and travel and their holiday traditions reflect their heart’s desire. They carry empty suitcases, hoping that the new year will provide them with travel opportunities. Money is universally desired and everyone wishes to attract it while lentils signify luck and affluence, which is why it is baked with rice or carried around in their pockets. Truly, food, money and travel are the three basic necessities Colombians wish for while having a new year party.
The Danes veer towards a slightly violent approach to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. They save old plates and dishes throughout the year, only to smash them against their doors come New year. The greater the pile of broken china, the greater your number of friends and even bigger the good fortune that awaits you in the New Year. Kransekage, or wreath cake, is also baked and eaten. Another New Year’s Eve food that they gorge on is oliebollen, which is deep-fried dough dusted with powdered sugar, a tradition tied to Ancient Germanic tribes.
If you are a dark-haired man, bearing gifts like coal, salt, whiskey or shortbread, you will be heartily welcomed in Scotland after midnight on New Year’s Day. As Scotland was invaded by Vikings, the last thing they wanted to see was a tall, light-haired man. So, the opposite version came to signify good luck and prosperity. On Hogmanay, i.e. New Year’s Eve, Scots feast on traditional foods, especially haggis, Rumbledethumps and tatties and neeps.
The Greek celebrate the New Year as the festival of Saint Basil. Hence, baking the Vasilopita, or Saint Basil’s cake is a common tradition. A gold or silver coin is baked into the New Year cake and whoever gets it is considered to be exceptionally lucky in the coming year. They also smash pomegranates against the door of their house. The numbers of scattered seeds correspond to the amount of good luck that will come your way.
Soba noodles are a crowd favorite throughout the year, but toshikoshi soba, or year-crossing noodles as they are popularly called is a New Year’s Eve food. As soba is thin and long, people equate it to a long and healthy life in the coming year. As the buckwheat plant can thrive in any weather it also signifies a certain resilience to the curveballs of life. It is undoubtedly one of the most prominent new year food traditions in Japan.
Ashes in champagne. Don’t worry, they don’t use anything dangerous. It is customary to write down your wishes for the New Year on a piece of paper, burn it and mix the ashes to your drink. Often this is champagne.
More the food, more the luck you bring. A day to binge, Estonians believe that eating as many as seven, nine or 12 meals will greatly increase their chances at attracting good fortune. Also, it is okay not to clean your plate as people believe that their deceased family members, who would be visiting in spirit, can partake in the meal.
Rich in cheeses and dairy products, the Swiss holiday tradition includes putting a dollop of cream on the floor. This is expected to usher in good fortune and peace in the coming year.
Good wishes are kneaded into the dough for bread. Here, it is literally a case of – it is the thought that counts. Although they do not add any special ingredient, they believe in the sincere wishes of the baker and share the bread that is baked on the 31st which finds its place at New Year’s dinner.
The Filipinos start the New Year by eating 12 round-shaped fruits. The emphasis on round stuff denotes the fact that they resemble the curvature of coins. Filipinos believe that eating round fruits, one for each month, is a sure-fire way to invite prosperity into their lives.
Brazilians, like the Spaniards, eat grapes to start the New Year on the right note. Since they consider seven as a lucky number, they eat seven grapes for affluence and seven pomegranate seeds to welcome prosperity. They also try to jump along seven waves while making seven wishes, at midnight.
Every community has its own way of celebrating New Year’s Eve. While we see the influences of the past in these traditions, what unites people is the sense of hope with which everyone looks forward to making a fresh start. As you usher in the New Year 2022, here’s hoping that you always have a full belly no matter what your new year food traditions are.