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The Lucky Cuisine of New Year’s Eve

New_Year

What’s on your New Year’s Even menu (other than champagne) this year? It’s the perfect day to make wishes and predictions about the year to come, and plenty of traditions have developed for bringing prosperity for the coming year. Traditions vary around the world, and some even verge on wacky! Which ones will you try this year?

Gulp Your Grapes

Grapes_New_YearIn Spain and Latin America, it’s customary to eat twelve grapes (one for each month) as quickly as you can at midnight. Different countries follow variations on this theme. Spaniards believe that each sweet grape represents a prosperous month, while each sour one means a less-than-lucky month. Peruvians eat an extra grape for good luck, and Colombians make a wish on each grape. (Another fun Colombian tradition: If you want to travel this year, run around your block at midnight carrying your suitcases!)

Slurp a Little Soba

Japanese_Osechi_ryouri-500x355You’ll find people all over Japan eating soba at midnight, when the buckwheat noodles are called “toshi koshi” (“from one year to another”) noodles. They symbolize longevity, so the longer the noodles, the better! On New Year’s Day, the meal of choice is ozoni, a soup made of bonito fish and kelp that’s topped with pounded rice cakes. Tradition holds that eating ozoni as your first meal of the New Year guarantees happiness for the next twelve months. Then for the first three days of the New Year, osechi-ryori, a collection of symbolic foods, is served in traditional lacquered boxes.

Ward off Evil Spirits

OliebollenEver since Germanic tribes inhabited the Netherlands and celebrated Yule (one precursor to Christmas), the Dutch have eaten oliebollen (deep fried dough balls). Tribes believed that the goddess Perchta roved the earth with a band of evil spirits at the end of the year. She would visit each household, giving good souls gold coins. But those who’d been bad got their stomachs slashed open and stuffed with hay. Eating greasy foods like oliebollen were supposed to make Perchta’s sword slide off the belly.

Eat a Bagel…Or a Doughnut

4bd673167b35974d0306457dd2614197Circular foods are thought to bring good luck because they represent “coming full circle.” In Denmark and Norway, this tradition manifests in the form of multi-tiered marzipan cakes decorated with miniature flags. They often have a hole in the center for a bottle of Aquavit. If you don’t have time to whip up a giant marzipan cake today, doughnuts are a frequent substitute. Coin-size foods, such as candies, are also considered good luck because they resemble money.

Make a Southern Meal

black-eyed-peas-sl-257606-lIn the American South, it’s tradition to eat black eyed peas. Eating such a lowly food was thought to show humility and invite good fortune. Pair it with pieces of pork, because this fatty meat is associated with richness. And don’t forget the cornbread, whose color evokes gold, and therefore prosperity. Eating greens along with the meal is also thought to bring wealth because they resemble paper money.

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2013 by in History, Holidays and tagged , , .
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