“Happy New Year!” or some variation ranging from “Kul ‘am wa antum bikhair” in Arabic to “jabulela unyaka omusha” in Zulu will be spoken over the next few days, as people around the world usher in 2015. Associated with this celebration in cultures around the world is food prepared and served on the first day of the year. Many believe that the food eaten on New Year’s Day will determine how the year will unfold. Many cultures plan special meals that they believe will bring love, good health, wealth, and general good fortune, as many people plan to “eat for luck.” The following list highlights some of the special food items that are served on New Year’s Day across the globe.Much of the information for this article was taken from foodtimeline.org.Regardless of what you choose to eat or do not eat on the first day of the New Year, may blessings abound in every way in 2015.
One New Year’s Day food tradition, particularly recognized among many African Americans, is black-eyed peas. Said to represent copper coins, this popular legume symbolizes prosperity, and many people in cultures around the world insist on having this dish on the first day of the year.
Collards and other greens
Along with black-eyed peas, various cultures, especially many African Americans, serve greens, such as collards, turnips, or kale. Cabbage is another green vegetable served on New Year’s Day. Such green vegetables represent prosperity in the form of paper money and should be on the menu on the holiday menu.
Although some cultures serve rice as a part of their diet, rice eaten on New Year’s Day is considered another good-luck food. A Southern recipe, such as Hoppin John, a combination of black-eyed peas and rice, might be a considered a “doubly lovely dish or a double dose of good fortune.”
Pork and sauerkraut
People of several nationalities feel that eating some form of pork is a proper way to start the New Year. This tradition may go back to Europe where wild boars were hunted and served on the first day of the year hundreds of years ago. Since the pig uses its snout to dig in the ground in a forward direction, many people think that this animal symbolizes the idea of moving forward as the New Year begins. Swine are also associated with plumpness and having plenty to eat. As Austrians, Swedes, and Germans migrated to American, they frequently chose pork or ham for their New Year’s meal and brought this tradition with them. Among the Pennsylvania Dutch and other ethnic groups, pork is served with sauerkraut to bring good fortunate and prosperity for the coming year.
Another New Year’s food tradition comes from Spain and Portugal, where it is customary to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Each grape signifies one month of the upcoming year. A sweet grape means the month will be good. A sour grape means the month will be bad.
Frequently, fish is said to be another “good luck food.” People in the northwestern part of the United States may choose to eat salmon on New Year’s Day. Some Germans, Poles, and Scandinavians may choose herring, which may be served in a cream sauce or pickled. According to German folklore, eating a herring at the stroke of midnight will bring luck for the next year, perhaps reflected in their silver color that resembles coins. Germans and other groups also may choose to eat carp, pictured in the photo. The Chinese also value fish, serving a whole one, indicating that there is more than enough food to eat.
Food in the shape of a ring
Many cultures believe that any food in the shape of a ring will bring good luck, as the closing of the ring means ‘coming full circle’ and represents a fresh start in the New Year. Such a food would be lentils which are served around the world. A popular New Year’s meal in Italy is Cotechino con Lenticchie , green lentils with sausage. Because of their green color and circular appearance that resembles coins, lentils are considered another good fortune food. When cooked, lentils expand greatly, symbolizing growing wealth in countries such as Hungary where they are preferred in soup.
In a number of countries of the Far East, such as China, Japan, and other places in Asia, it is customary to eat long noodles on New Year’s Day. The Japanese observe this tradition by eating a noodle called toshikoshi soba. (“sending out the old year”). This buckwheat noodle is quite long, and those who can swallow at least one of them without chewing or breaking it are supposed to enjoy good luck and a long life.
Sometimes sweets, such as special cakes, cookies or pastries, are eaten for luck on New Year’s Day. In some places, a special cake may be made with a coin baked inside. Traditionally prepared in Greece, which celebrates Saint Basil’s Day and New Year’s at the same time, the Saint Basil’s Day cake (vasilopeta) is made of yeast dough and flavored with lemon. Whoever gets the slice with the silver or gold coin is considered very lucky.
New Year’s Food Traditions Around the World
Your first meal or drink of the New Year could impact the rest of 2015! Ko Im (@konakafe) takes a look at food traditions around the globe.