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Worldwide Gastronomy Habits & Trends

International New Year’s Eve dishes to make the force be with you

ByDaria Malinowska

Dec 31, 2022

It’s New Year’s Eve, people! During this time, we tend to hope that our wishes and dreams will come true and that everything will be better in the next year. It’s a promise of a fresh start. New year, new me, amirite?

Others believe that destiny is all, like the main character from the Last Kingdom series used to say. However, maybe we should help it a bit from time to time. After all, we are not passive observers but active participants in our life stories.

And it seems that I am not the only one who would like to nudge their fate in the desired direction; In many countries all around the world, during New Year’s Eve, people consume special foods that are said to bring them good fortune in the subsequent year. Let’s see what they are.

Grapes

In countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Mexico, people eat 12 grapes right as the clocks strike midnight.

According to the stories, this unusual annual tradition started around the 20th century. It was the Spanish grape farmers who thought it up to rid themselves of surplus crops. But why? You may ask. If you swallow all of the grapes by the time the tolls cease, you’ll be lucky during the whole next year. However, beware before you decide to participate in it since failure guarantees the next 12 months to be hapless.

Since the challenge is relatively tricky, many prepare their grapes ahead of time by peeling and deseeding them. After all, efficiency is pivotal here.

Noodles

In many Asian countries, long noodles are eaten to ascertain long and prosperous life. As some sources claim, this curious custom has its beginnings in the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations.

The longer the noodles are, the better. Also, you should not break or cut them before they enter your mouth in any way; they are to be slurped.

You can, of course, also skip biting them to ensure that their effect holds. However, I do not recommend such an approach. Ironically, this way, you could potentially cut your own life short.

Lentils

To Italians, this legume symbolizes money and good fortune since its shape resembles coins. La Festa de San Silvestro, a celebratory dinner on New Year’s Eve, traditionally begins with, among other things, cotechino con lenticchie, a fresh pork sausage on a bed of lentil stew.

Fish

Signifying abundance and fertility, many cultures regard fish as a lucky dish. Its pickled version is particularly enjoyed as a New Year’s dish in such places as Germany, Poland, or Scandinavia.

The latter two are rather fond of consuming herring for this occasion, perhaps because of its availability.

Scandinavians eat herring in big smorgasbords, or buffet-style feasts among other smoked and pickled fish, pate, or meatballs. Poles, on the other hand, salt it and pickle it in a sugar and white vinegar solution with onions and allspice. Herring is also often enjoyed in different relishes, the cream sauce being one of the most popular ones.

Pomegranate

If you want to ensure luck in the upcoming year and release some pent-up anger, you should try smashing pomegranates, just like the Greeks do! The moment the clock strikes midnight, the fruit ought to be thrown either before your doorstep or on the door itself. Don’t worry about the mess. Actually, the messier it gets, the better since the exposed seeds symbolize fertility, eternity, and good luck.

Bread

Speaking of aggression, the Irish bake a loaf of bread and bash it with all their might against their walls and doors to frighten away unclean spirits and demons. Then, they eat the loaf to guarantee they won’t experience hunger during the next year. Simple, yet effective. And has so many purposes!

Black-Eyed Peas (not the band)

Similarly to lentils, black-eyed peas are consumed for luck because they look a bit like coins. You can double the chances of bringing good fortune by serving them with various cooked greens (green is the color of luck AND dollars).

A traditional dish, Hoppin’ John, served in the American South combines the two ingredients. Apart from them (black-eyed peas and cooked greens), it includes pork-flavored field peas and rice. What is more, the dish is served with a side of cornbread (yellow, like gold).

After consuming such a combination, it is just impossible not to get at least slightly richer.

Round cakes and confections

Remember the circle of life from the Lion King? Rings and loops often are a metaphor for the perpetuity of life. The tradition of eating a round cake traverses all cultures.

Germans, for example, celebrate the New Year by eating big pretzels made of sweet yeast bread. A similar tradition exists in the Pittsburgh area in the USA. Apart from their shape, pretzels are also special for one more reason. In the Catholic Church tradition, this Lenten treat appears to be considered a godsend.

In Greece, people eat a round cake, vasilopita, with a small coin hidden inside. The person who finds it in their slice will be happier than ever in the upcoming year.

Kransekage, which could be translated into wreath cake, is a Scandinavian cake tower assembled from numerous marzipan circles and decorated with flags and traditional white glaze.

Final thoughts

I hope this article will help you secure good fortune for the next year (and even further). Have a happy New Year!