Still haven’t solidified your plans for New Year’s Eve or Day? Consider the following traditions and feast your way into a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013. The key ingredients to your good fortune seem to be grapes, greens, fish, legumes, noodles, pork and cakes—and no lobster!
The “twelve grape” tradition is a fun and easy custom to try out if you’ll be traveling through Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador or Peru this New Year’s. Instead of counting down to a kiss, you’ll count down to grape chomping. At the stroke of midnight, pick twelve grapes from a cluster. Each grape signifies a month of the new year. For example, if the first grape tastes sweet then January will be a good month. If the fifth grape makes your mouth pucker like you’re sucking on a lemon then watch out for May. Some cultures pick thirteen grapes, one to signify your overall luck for the year.
The tradition existed in the late 1800s but wasn’t a national custom in Spain until 1909 when Spanish wine country had a fantastic year and needed to create demand for the enormous harvest. Since then, this fun bit of heritage has spread to half a dozen other Spanish-influenced countries.
What else is green and symbolizes good fortune (besides a leprechaun and his four leaf clover)? You guessed it, cabbage and collard greens! In several European countries, including Germany and Ireland, as well as parts of the United States, leafy greens are thought to bring you luck since they resemble money. I’m not sure whose money looks like mustard greens, but serve it with a side of corn bread and I might start seeing dollar bills on my plate too.
Cultures around the world eat fish to celebrate the new year. Some people believe that schools of fish symbolize abundance and those with silver scales are especially lucky – even saving some scales in their wallet for good luck. Other cultures associate the constant forward motion of fish as a good prognostic as they step into the new year. While boiled cod and pickled herring are the traditional New Year’s menu items in Europe and Scandinavia, consider spicing up the dish to suit your taste. How about cajun fish tacos with guacamole and mango salsa or a crock pot full of red seafood curry with potatoes and pumpkin? Yum!
Beans, peas and lentils are all considered food shaped like coins (sensing a theme?) in many cultures. Black-eyed peas are an omen of prosperity in the southern United States. Eating these peas has been traced back to the civil war when many people survived on not much else. So, if you’d like to go really old school, prepare a meal of ham, rice, black-eyed peas and collard greens—and throw in some macaroni and cheese on the side. It doesn’t sound that different than what we would prepare today. Apparently good comfort food stands the test of time.
Many Asian countries celebrate New Year’s by consuming delicious noodle dishes, one long noodle at a time. The trick is to eat the stringy, slippery pasta (a symbol of longevity) all in one piece to ensure a long life. Looking for a savory twist on plain noodle dishes, try this soba noodle salad recipe from myrecipes.com.
Pigs are fatty (a symbol of wealth and prosperity) and eat while moving forward (a positive direction for the new year). This doesn’t mean you need to roast a pig or serve an entire ham. If you’d like to incorporate a little pork into your festivities consider a make-your-own bar of mini cold cut sandwiches (sliced ham or pulled pork are great options) or grill up some sausages—they’re quick to prepare, easy to eat while watching a football game and simple to clean up after (a big bonus!).
7. Baked goods
Many cultures have traditions of baking breads or cakes with (usually inedible) things hidden inside—if you’re eating a Greek sweet bread, watch out, they contain coins. These baked treats are considered especially lucky if shaped like the letter “o”. Rings are symbolic of the years coming full circle—and of delicious donuts, but I digress.
8. Not lobster
Many believe that eating lobster (which scoots backwards across the ocean floor) on New Year’s will bring bad luck and cause financial backsliding. So opt for the “turf” and leave the “surf” until January 2nd.
In the Philippines it’s not so much about what is on the table but how much. An abundance of food at the stroke of midnight is thought to insure a prosperous new year.