New Year’s Day is a chance for new beginnings in many different ways. It is a day when people make New Year resolutions, clean out their homes and basically try to begin anew. Big parades and celebrations are had on the first day of each year and certain foods are chosen to eat on this day. Certain foods are considered to be ‘good luck’ to eat on the first day of the year, and each country has their own special foods that they prepare to usher in the New Year. Here are some of the foods and special dishes made around the world on the first day of the year.
Cakes and Pastries: Cakes and other pastries are eaten all over the world during the holiday preceding the New Year and on New Year’s Day, with round cakes being the favorite. Oftentimes, a little trinket or a nut is baked into a cake, with the belief that the finder will have good fortune throughout the year.
Fish: Fish is one of the most popular foods eaten on New Year’s Day, with cod (bacalao), being a favorite. Since it was discovered during the Middle Ages, by fishermen, that cod fish can be preserved with salt, it became a food-of-life in many countries. In addition, the fact that the Catholic Church condemned eating red meat on religious holidays most probably encouraged greater consumption of the life-saving cod. Because of this, cod, as well as other fish, are eaten on the first day of each year in countries such as Italy, Denmark, Poland, Germany, Sweden, and Japan.
Grapes: In Spain, it is traditional to eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Day, one grape for each stroke of the clock and each one represents a month of the year. This custom started long ago when there was a surplus of grapes in Spain. The tradition took root and spread to Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru. It is believed that if a certain grape is sour, for instance the 4th grape eaten, then the corresponding month, April in this case, will be a rather rough month. The goal is to eat all the grapes before the 12th chime.
Greens: Greens such as collard greens, kale, cabbage and chard are considered good luck because the folded leaves often resemble folded money and therefore are associated with economic wealth. These are traditionally eaten in Denmark, where they add cinnamon and sugar to kale, in Germany, where they eat sauerkraut with cabbage and in the southern United States, where collard greens are the favorite for New Year’s Day.
Legumes (beans): Legumes are thought of as a symbol of wealth, including peas and lentils. The legumes remind people of coins and the fact that they swell when cooked is considered to be a sign of great financial benefit. In Italy, Italians eat sausage and green lentils and in Germany people eat legumes and pork. In Japan, one of the first dishes eaten is kuro-mame, a sweet black bean and in Brazil the first meal is often lentil soup or lentils with rice.
In the United States, black-eyed peas are one of the favorite foods eaten on New Year’s Day. This tradition dates back to the Civil War, when food ran out in the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Apparently, some residents found some black-eyed peas and legumes and since then they are considered good luck to eat.
Pork: It is customary to eat pork in many countries on the first day of the year, as pork is associated with progress. In Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Hungary, it is the roast, suckling pig that will grace many a table. In Sweden it will be pig’s feet that will be cooked on New Year’s Day and the Germans will enjoy roast pork and sausages.
So if you want to start the year off right why not try one of these good luck foods on New Year’s Day. Who knows? These long-standing traditions may very well have some truth in them.
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