Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Food and Tradditions Around the World

Today is the last day of the year and most families from around the world get together to celebrate it with parties, foods and drinks. I decided to read about some New Year's traditions and found out, many interesting things: We love food and in many cultures that's the center of the celebration.

Every culture has traditional foods believed to bring good fortune in the New Year. No matter when New Year's Day occurs (at Rosh Hashanah in September, Chinese New Year in January, Persian New Year at the spring equinox), special food items are served that represent health, prosperity, sweetness and luck for the year ahead.

These are some lucky food and food traditions:

In many Asian countries, long noodles are eaten on New Year's Day in order to bring a long life.

Black eyed peas
A common good luck food in the southern United States, black-eyed peas are thought to bring prosperity, especially when served with collard greens.

In Germany, Ireland, and parts of the United States, cabbage is associated with luck and fortune since it is green and resembles money.

Thought to resemble coins, lentils are eaten throughout Italy for good fortune in the New Year.

Long associated with abundance and fertility, pomegranates are eaten in Turkey and other Mediterranean countries for luck in the New Year.

In North America, Asia, and Europe, people eat fish to celebrate the new year. In some countries, people associate fish with moving forward into the new year since fish swim forward. Other people think fish symbolize abundance since they swim in schools.

Pork is served at New Year’s celebrations all over the world. Some cultures believe pigs symbolize prosperity and abundance because of their plump bodies and high fat content, while others say pigs symbolize progress because they push themselves forward as they root around in the dirt for food.

In Japan, the traditional food for New Year's Day includes mochi (round balls of rice) and mirror cakes (the balls flattened to the shape of a mirror) which are placed on altars as offerings to the gods (along with an orange for longevity) and given to relatives and friends as tokens of divine blessings for the year.

Dates and figs
The Romans used to give friends a glass jar full of dates and dried figs in honey, along with a bay leaf branch so the coming year would be sweet and full of good fortune. Neapolitans still wrap dried figs in laurel leaves and exchange them as a kind of insurance of abundance for the coming year. They also make confections of caramelized dough and tiny almond pieces which are eaten over a period of days.

In Mexico and many South American countries, instead of doing a champagne toast, New Year's Eve revelers eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, one for each month in the coming year. In Venezuela we combine both a champagne toast and grape eating.

Citrus is a positive symbol for the Chinese New Year, observed on the first day of the first lunar month (in 2009, it falls on January 26). Tangerines represent good luck, and oranges represent wealth.

In Greece, a special round cake called vasilopita is baked with a coin hidden inside. At midnight or after the New Year's Day meal, the cake is cut, with the first piece going to St. Basil and the rest being distributed to guests in order of age.

Sweden and Norway have similar rituals in which they hide a whole almond in rice pudding—whoever gets the nut is guaranteed great fortune in the new year.

In Scotland, where New Year's is called Hogmanay, there is a tradition called "first footing," in which the first person to enter a home after the new year determines what kind of year the residents will have. The "first footer" often brings symbolic gifts like coal to keep the house warm or baked goods such as shortbread, oat cakes, and a fruit caked called black bun, to make sure the household always has food.

What Not to Eat or unlucky food


According to many cultures, eating anything with wings is not a good. It could fly away, taking all your luck. Chicken is especially bad because the bird scratches backwards (unlike the forward-thinking pig), possibly leading to setbacks.

Backwards-swimming lobsters are also a bad omen for the same reason.

Eggs, tofu, or white cheese
The color white is a symbol of death in the Chinese culture, so avoid eggs, tofu, or white cheese.

And above all, don’t clean your plate too thoroughly — many cultures believe that leaving a little leftover food on your plate will usher in a year of plenty.

Well, that's it. Hope you have and excellet New Year's Dinner and a very Lucky Happy New Year 2009.

These are some of the articles I read to write this post

Living in Season: New Year's Feasts
"Good Luck" New Year's Feast Ideas from Around the World
Lucky Foods for the New Year

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