Every holiday has its own set of customs and traditions, but none have quite the lucky significance as those surrounding New Year’s Eve. Whether it’s watching the ball drop, kissing their special someone, or toasting with a flute of champagne, everyone is looking to start the year out right. Many cultures incorporate these types of “superstitions” into meals they prepare and serve each December 31st.
Take a look at the slideshow below and learn how people around the world get ready for the new year. It’s never too late to use one of the recipes and score yourself some extra good luck for 2015!
Hoppin' John, a classic black-eyed pea recipe, is a New Year's Day tradition in the South that is believed to bring luck and prosperity. Either way, it's sure to bring good health in the coming year, as black-eyed peas are a high-fiber, low-fat, and low-calorie food. Serve this recipe with collard greens (another lucky New Year's Day food!) for an extra-healthy start to your year.
Eating sauerkraut on New Year's Day has long been a tradition in Germany, where it's believed to bring blessings and wealth in the coming year. Sauerkraut is also commonly eaten in parts of the U.S. with large German-American populations, like Pennsylvania, where it's traditionally served with pork, another lucky food. Whip up this caraway pepper sauerkraut recipe and ring in the New Year in a delicious fashion.
In Mediterranean cultures, pomegranates are often associated with abundance and fertility — and that's exactly why they're eaten on New Year's Day in Greece and neighboring countries. Incorporate this healthy and tasty fruit into your New Year's Day dessert with this super-festive panna cotta with pomegranate syrup in a jar!
Toshikoshi soba, or "year-end soba," is a traditional Japanese New Year's Eve dish. It's believed to be bad luck to break your soba noodles, which symbolize long life, and to not finish your soba before midnight. Try this chilled wasabi peanut citrus soba noodle recipe for a tasty way to dress up plain noodles.
Ring-shaped cakes symbolize wholeness and the completion of a full year's cycle. In Greece, there's vasilopita, a round, anise-flavored cake with a coin hidden inside; in Mexico, they make rosca de reyes, a sweet, ring-shaped bread that's studded with dried fruit and baked with a tiny figurine of baby Jesus inside; and a long-held Dutch tradition is to feast on puffy, doughnut-like fritters called oliebollen, which are filled with apples and raisins and dusted with powdered sugar.
Because dumplings resemble the gold ingots that were once China's currency, eating them represents the hope for an auspicious new year. If you’re making them yourself, however, look out: superstition warns against counting the dumplings, for fear that it will lead to scarcity in the new year. Another ancient belief that doubles as a teaching moment: any bad feelings between family members must be resolved before the dumplings are cooked; if they're not, evil spirits will steal them.
In Spain, New Year’s Eve means one thing: a whole lot of grapes. At midnight, everyone from grandmothers to teenagers starts popping the fruit into their mouths one by one, in time with the local clock tower's chimes. The saying goes that if you manage to swallow all twelve before the last stroke of midnight, you can count on a prosperous year. Today, the custom is also going strong in Portugal, Cuba, Venezuela, and a handful of other countries.
The leaves of greens are thought to resemble folded money and supposedly portend a rise in economic fortune. In Denmark, it's kale sweetened with cinnamon and sugar, and in this country, sautéed collard greens are an integral part of a New Year's meal.
The high fat content in pork signifies wealth and prosperity; plus, pigs push their snouts forward when rooting for food, which represents progress (in contrast, turkeys and chickens scratch backward for their food). For that reason, and the superstition that happiness will fly away with the birds' feathers, many people avoid poultry for the New Year). Suckling pig is a favorite at New Year’s meals in Austria, Hungary, and Portugal; in Germany, you'll find roasted pork and sausages, and in Sweden, pork trotters.