Traditional New Years’s Day feasts from around the world

Food and culture are so tightly linked. It is always fascinating to find out what people around the world eat, and why. The New Year is a time when people all over the world take a few days to rest, recharge, gather together and celebrate the coming year, putting behind us the old year and ringing in the new year with joy and possibility! What better way to do that than with an epic feast??

Here are some fun facts on who eats what, when and why!

The Pennsylvania Dutch eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.

As far as the South is concerned, there are two sayings for the traditions:

– “Peas for Pennies, Greens for Dollars, and Cornbread for Gold.”
– “Eat poor on New Year’s, eat fat the rest of the year.”

Often the shape or color looks like money which is why cabbage or greens are so common in many traditions. Sometimes actual coins are incorporated into the dish for extra luck
– a penny placed under a bowl of black-eyed peas
– a washed dime placed in a pot of peas
– a coin baked in bread (Greece)

There are two reasons that pork dishes are considered to be lucky:

– a family that owned a pig would be eating well
– pigs root forward and symbolize moving forward

Along that line, lobsters are considered unlucky in Austria because they move backward.

Hungarians avoid two foods on New Years:
– chicken because you will be scratching around for money like a chicken scratches for food
– Fish because your money might swim away like a fish

Rice and starches symbolize abundance, especially the many grains of rice. The color of rutabagas is lucky because it is golden.

In pre-Christian days, ring-shaped foods were considered lucky because it signified continuity the “coming full circle,” and the belief that good luck will follow by eating foods in this shape. In Holland a special donut is eaten on New Years.

Much is written about New Years day Southern food:

One story dates the dish to the Civil War when a raid by the Northern soldiers left only black-eyed peas and salted pork to eat on New Years Day, so it was considered lucky.

In addition to black eyed peas looking like tiny coins, they swelled when cooked, a sign of increasing prosperity.

Lucky food by country:

ANCIENT ROMANS: nuts, dates, figs and round cakes.

ARMENIA: Special New Year’s bread kneaded with luck and good wishes pressed in the dough.

AUSTRIA: Pork dishes (pigs root forward). No unlucky lobster (they move backward)

BOSNIA & CROATIA (FORMERLY YUGOSLAVIA): “Sarma” or beef wrapped tightly in cabbage

CAMBODIA: (April) sticky rice cakes made with sweet beans.

CHINA: (lunar New Year). LOTS of symbolism Foods like dumplings,because they look like nuggets of gold, etc, etc …(see links).

DENMARK: Boiled cod

FRANCE: pancakes for breakfast

GERMANY: Herring & carp… Germans put some of the fish’s scales in their wallets to ensure financial good luck.

HOLLAND: Olie Bollen or “oil balls” … sweet, puffy, fritter-like donuts filled with diced apples, raisins, and currants. The ring shape symbolizes “coming full circle” and is believed to bring good luck.

HUNGARY: good luck – roast pig, with a four-leaf clover in its mouth
Bad luck – chicken (eating it will have you scratching for money), fish (it’ll swim away with your money)

INDIA (Southern): boiled rice

IRAN: (March) Grains of wheat and barley are sprouted in water to symbolize new life. Coins and colored eggs are placed on the table, which is set for a special meal of seven foods that begin with the letter “s”.

ITALY: Northern – lentils (coins)

JAPAN: Like China, lots of dishes. Most noted long soba noodles that are sucked up without breaking to ensure a long life. Red snapper because red is a lucky color in Japan. More foods in this link:

JEWISH NEW YEAR (Sept – Oct): apples dipped in honey.

LATIN COUNTRIES (CUBA MEXICO, PORTUGUAL SPAIN, SOUTH AMERICA): Twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight, each grape signifying one month of the upcoming year. A sweet grape means that month will be good, a sour grape means the month will be bad.

PHILIPPINES: A large amount of any type of food on the table at midnight to help encourage an abundance of food throughout the year.

POLAND: herring (but my Polish family never ate this)

SWITZERLAND: whipped cream, which symbolizes riches, is dropped on the floor to demonstrate surplus wealth.

TIBET: guthok, which is made of nine special ingredients, including a piece of charcoal. The person who gets the charcoal is said to have an evil heart

Vietnam: (late January) carp – a fish thought to carry the god of good luck on its back.

What are your New Years traditions, food or otherwise?