New Year’s Food Traditions from Around the World
By Maria Healey, MariaHealey.com
2020 is almost over and I don’t know where the last year of our lives went! New Year’s Eve is a time for us to reflect on the past year and share our wishes for the upcoming year. Though most Americans might consider a champagne toast at midnight to be the most traditional way to ring in the New Year, rice brings prosperity to those celebrating in India and Pakistan, and noodles bring good luck in Asia.
Which foods do you consider traditionally lucky for the New Year? Some of the foods that bring about these rituals and superstitions around the world include:
One of the most popular New Year’s food traditions is eating green colored foods such as cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts. The green color is symbolic of cash, money and fortune and eating leafy greens like kale or spinach are reminiscent of a lucky four-leaf clover.
Cabbage rolls, roasted brussels sprouts and black-eyed peas with collard greens are all New Year’s Eve food traditions in the Southern US to kick off the year with a little luck by adding some green to the plate. Germans eat sauerkraut as their green food of choice to ring in the New Year and Spaniards eat 12 (green) grapes at the stroke of midnight for luck as their New Year’s food tradition.
Serve kale salad for a quick New Year’s Eve appetizer using only five ingredients – kale, olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese and sliced almonds. Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and add salt and pepper to enhance the flavors.
Fish is a New Year’s food tradition among many cultures as the fish represents forward movement in the new year and abundance as they swim in schools all in the same direction. Eating fish as a traditional New Year’s Day meal is often celebratory or as a hope for prosperity. Some Germans even carry a carp scale in their wallet after their NYE meal to bring them luck in the new year.
In Scandinavian culture, pickled herring is often served as the fish of choice for a traditional New Year’s dinner, since the silvery skin of the herring signifies wealth. The French enjoy a celebratory feast called “le réveillon” which includes smoked salmon and seafood such as oysters, lobster and escargot to ring in the new year. In Asian culture, the new year is celebrated in February as a Spring Festival, Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year in which steamed fish is prepared as a New Year’s traditional meal.
The round, flat shape of lentils is reminiscent of ancient coins and eaten as part of a traditional New Year’s dinner to bring money, wealth and fortune. Lentils are eaten by themselves or as a part of a New Year’s traditional meal by many cultures from ancient Rome to Chile.
Italians eat lentil beans with sausage in a traditional New Year’s meal called “cotechino” to bring good luck in the new year with the round-shaped foods of lentils and sliced pork sausage. Chileans’ New Year’s food tradition includes eating three spoonfuls of plain lentils for love, health and wealth. Lentils can also be eaten in soups or dips to start the new year off with better luck.
Share an easy and delicious New Year’s Eve appetizer this year with only four ingredients – cooked lentils, crumbled feta cheese, bruschetta sauce and pita chips. Mix the lentils, feta and bruschetta in a bowl and serve pita chips on the side for dipping.
Pork is a traditional New Year’s Day meal in many cultures, including Germany, Eastern European countries and the Southern and Midwestern United States. Superstition around eating pork during New Year’s comes from the fact that pigs eat in a forward motion, which signifies good luck and good fortune in the New Year, as opposed to dining on a lobster that moves in a backward motion. Pigs and pork are often fat and rich, two more desirable traits of prosperity in the New Year.
Pork is served in a variety of ways for the New Year. In Germany and Eastern European countries, kielbasa is served with sauerkraut as a traditional New Year’s Day meal (sometimes called “bigus”). US Midwesterners feast on a traditional New Year’s Day dinner of roast pork on a bed of cabbage. The traditional New Year’s Day dinner in the Southern US in Louisiana is Hoppin’ John, a recipe that includes many of the New Year’s Eve food traditions by combining pork, greens and lentils in a stew.
One of the most superstitious New Year’s food traditions is to eat round or ring-shaped foods to bring good luck in the new year, as their shape represents coming full circle. This superstitious practice spans from many European countries to Mexico.
“Rosca de Reyes” is a round cake decorated with candied fruits eaten as the traditional New Year’s food in Mexico. In Denmark, the New Year’s food tradition is “kransekage,” a tower of marzipan doughnuts. Italians eat a round pastry called “chiacchiere” to celebrate the New Year. Circular pretzels are also a New Year’s food of choice in Germany.
A fun and tasty New Year’s Eve treat to ring in the new year only requires three ingredients – round pretzels, chocolate kisses and peanut M&M candies. Simply melt kisses in the center of pretzels in the oven and press M&M’s into place once the pan is removed.
With so many traditions available from around the world, your biggest decision of the year might be choosing which NYE food you’ll enjoy the most. Try out a lucky food this year or whip up a traditional New Year’s Eve meal to bring your loved ones together and “guarantee” a lucky new year.