Good luck rituals are part of almost every culture, especially during New Year celebrations. Since the dawning of a new year is often celebrated with friends and family, food is a big part of the festivities. Here are just some of the ways families in different countries celebrate the beginning of the new year with traditional food.
Celebrating in Cyprus, Greece & Some Eastern European Countries
My family is from Cyprus and we ring in the New Year by cutting a vasilopita, a sweet bread type of cake, to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. A coin (usually a dollar coin) is hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking. This is a popular tradition in many Greek cultures as well as some areas in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. At midnight, the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake and slices are cut beginning from eldest to youngest.
Although it’s supposed to be that slices are cut only for those present, we always include our entire family (even those not present). I think I’m going to ask that we nix that tradition this year because I’ve always gotten very close to winning the coin and don’t. (The winner of the coin is said to have good fortune in the new year.) I need to take matters into my own hands this year so I have a better chance. That won’t be bad luck, will it?
New Year Celebration in Costa Rica
Festivities in Costa Rica start around 9 in the evening and last until the wee hours of the morning. Among the traditions is eating 12 grapes representing 12 wishes for the new year and running across the street with luggage to bring new trips and adventures in the coming year as well. Now this is a tradition I’d love to participate in since I love to travel and discover new adventures!
Traditional Food in Chile
In Chile, a family dinner with special dishes, usually including lentils and 12 grapes to symbolize each month of the year, are enjoyed during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
New Year’s Eve in Peru
Similar to Chile and Costa Rica, Peruvians honor the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the turn of the year but with a twist – they eat an extra grape, for a total of 13, to ensure good luck.
Lentils in Brazil
The lentil is believed to signify wealth in Brazil so on the first day of the New Year they serve lentil soup or lentils and rice.
New Year Celebration in England
Traditionally, on the stroke of midnight, people in England will open the back door (to let the old year out) and ask the first dark-haired man to be seen to come through the front door carrying salt, coal and bread. Why those particular items? So everyone in the house will have enough to eat (bread), enough money (salt) and be warm (coal).
Traditional Food in Scotland
The celebration of New Year’s Eve is called “Hogmanay” in Scotland and the comes from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year’s Eve.
Similar to the celebrations in England, the person who enters the residence first on New Year’s Day is believed to affect the fortunes of everyone who lives in the home. The tradition is called first footing and strangers are thought to bring good luck.
Getting Lucky in Norway
One whole almond is hidden in rice pudding for New Year’s in Norway and if you’re the lucky Norwegian to get the serving with the almond, folklore says you’re guaranteed wealth. I wonder how many servings I can get to increase my chances?
Soba Noodles are the Traditional Food of Japan
In most areas of Japan, buckwheat soba noodles are eaten at midnight as part of New Year’s Eve celebrations. The trick is to slurp the whole noodle from beginning to end without it breaking otherwise, according to folklore, you’ll cut your longevity short. Yikes! Slurp, slurp, slurp.
New Year Celebrations Differ in Italy
While Italian customs vary by region, in certain areas lentils combined with sausage (zampone) is believed to bring good fortune all year. Other areas celebrate the new year with a sweet bread or cake like a panetonne or a torciglione which is sliced and served to all as a symbol of hope and prosperity.
New Year in USA
In many parts of the southern United States families cook black-eyed peas with ham and greens. The peas were meant to symbolize luck, the ham is a symbol of wealth and the greens are a symbol of money.
Looking for other ways to ring in the new year? Check out these weird, wacky and wonderful New Year’s Eve countdown celebrations.