New Year's Food Traditions Around the World
As the new year arrives around the world, delicious foods with different representations are enjoyed in celebration. Long noodles represent long life, field peas represent coins, herring represents abundance, pigs represent good look, and so on! The details vary, but the experience is the same: Enjoy food and drink to usher in a year of prosperity.
Let's get into some of the New Year's food traditions around the world!
Kransekage, Denmark and Norway
Kransekage, literally wreath cake, is a cake tower composed of many concentric rings of cake layered on top of one another. This cake is made for New Year's Eve and other special occasions in Denmark and Norway.
Kransekage is made using marzipan, often with a bottle of wine or Aquavit in the center, and can be decorated with ornaments, flags, and crackers.
Pickled herring, Poland and Scandinavia
Because herring is in abundance in Poland and parts of Scandinavia and because of their silver coloring, many in those nations eat pickled herring at the stroke of midnight to bring a year of prosperity and bounty.
One special Polish New Year's Eve preparation of pickled herring, called Sledzie Marynowane, is made by soaking whole salt herrings in water for 24 hours and then layering them in a jar with onions, allspice, sugar and white vinegar.
Cotechino con lenticchie, Italy
Italians celebrate New Year's Eve with La Festa di San Silvestro, often commencing with a traditional cotechino con lenticchie, a sausage and lentil stew that is said to bring good luck (the lentils represent money and good fortune).
The meal ends with chiacchiere -- balls of fried dough that are rolled in honey and powdered sugar -- and prosecco.
Hoppin' John, American South
A major New Year's food tradition in the American South, Hoppin' John is a dish of pork-flavored field peas or black-eyed peas (symbolizing coins) and rice, frequently served with collards or other cooked greens (as they're the color of money) and cornbread (the color of gold). The dish is said to bring good luck in the new year.
Twelve grapes, Spain
The people of Spain at the stroke of midnight traditionally eat one grape for every toll of the clock bell. Some even prep their grapes - peeling and seeding them - to make sure they will be as efficient as possible when midnight comes! The custom began at the turn of the 20th century and was thought up by grape producers. Since then, the tradition has spread to many Spanish speaking nations.
Soba noodles, Japan
In Japanese households, families eat buckwheat soba noodles, or toshikoshi soba, at midnight on New Year's Eve. The tradition dates back to the 17th century, and the long noodles symbolize longevity and prosperity.
King cake, around the globe
The tradition of New Year's cake spans countless cultures around the world. The Greeks have the Vasilopita, the French the gateau or galette des rois. Mexicans have the Rosca de Reyes and Bulgarians enjoy the banitsa. Most of the cakes are consumed at midnight on New Year's Eve and include a hidden gold coin or figure, which symbolizes a prosperous year for whoever finds it in their slice!
Tamales, corn dough stuffed with meat, cheese and other delicious additions and wrapped in a banana leaf or a corn husk, make appearances at pretty much every special occasion in Mexico. In many families, groups gather together to make hundreds of the delicious tamales to hand out to friends, family, and neighbors.
In the Netherlands, fried oil balls, or oliebollen, are sold by street carts and are traditionally consumed on New Year's Eve and at special celebratory fairs. These delicious doughnut-like dumplings are made by dropping a scoop of dough spiked with currants or raisins into a deep fryer and then dusted with powdered sugar.
Marzipanschwein or Glücksschwein, Austria and Germany
Austria and Germany call New Year's Eve Sylvesterabend, or the eve of Saint Sylvester. Austrain revelers drink a red wine punch with cinnamon and spices, eat suckling pig for dinner, and decorate the table with little pigs made of marzipan, called marzipanschwein.
Good luck pigs, or Glücksschwein, which are made of all sorts of things, are also common gifts throughout both Austria and Germany.