A week ago we were either cooking our Christmas meals, or traveling to visit family and friends. Or maybe even a combination of the two. And now that it’s New Year’s, we’re back in the kitchen for one last big meal of the year. Perhaps you need some ideas on what to eat on New Year’s Eve or Day? If so, keep reading, and I’ll go over some regional and global ideas. But I’ll also cover the reasons why we eat the food we eat on New Year’s.
Most, if not all, of us know that it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas for New Year’s Eve or Day. That is if you live in the South. But are you familiar with the reason why? First, eating black-eyed peas can be dated back to 6th Century Jews celebrating Rosh Hashanah, their new year, for prosperity. Second, it is thought that Sephardic Jews moved to the Southern U.S. during the 18th Century, and they probably had slaves. Particularly black cooks who learned their cooking traditions.
However, eating black-eyed peas with rice is African in origin. And they continue to be a staple in Africa today. In addition, there are legends claiming that eating black-eyed peas dates to the Civil War. But as to the truth of why we started eating them on New Year’s? We’ll probably never really know. Some say it began with the Emancipation Proclamation, which commenced January 1, 1863.
What to Eat on New Year’s Eve
What to Eat on New Year’s Eve in the Southern United States:
A typical southern New Year’s Eve meal includes some kind of greens: collard greens, mustard greens, or turnip greens, which represents paper money. And cornbread is served to symbolize gold. Black-eyed peas are said to represent pennies by some. And then there is the pork; hog jowls is served like bacon to ensure health, prosperity, and progress. So you have health, wealth, and prosperity.
What to Eat on New Year’s Eve in the Northern United States:
While the Southern United States prefers Hoppin’ John, the Northern United States eats Gwumpkies, cabbage, and/or sauerkraut balls. The cabbage and variety also represents paper money and has ties to Eastern Europe. Additionally, Americans in the north eat herring, probably at the stroke of midnight like people in Poland, to ensure prosperity and bounty. Furthermore, the Northern U.S. serves roast pork to bring good luck; since it comes from the idea of the pig moving his snout around in a forward motion, not backwards.
What to Eat on New Year’s Eve in Spain:
According to CNN, Spain rings in the New Year with twelve grapes. At the stroke of midnight, people living in Spain eat one grape for each toll on the clock, signifiying one month each of good luck for the year.
What to Eat on New Year’s in Mexico:
Tamales are served, sold, and eaten in Mexico for New Year’s. Even though they’re usually important at most festive occasions, New Year’s is even more special for this food. And though there is no mystical or good luck associated with tamales, they tend to represent family and tradition.
What to Eat on New Year’s in the Netherlands:
On New Year’s Eve the Netherlands has powdered sugar, doughnut-like balls with currants or raisins. And they look similar to doughnut holes, including being fried like doughnuts. These were first eaten by Germanic tribes, and thought to be used as an offering to appease the Germanic goddess Perchta and her evil spirits.
Austria and Germany:
What to Eat on New Year’s in Austria and Germany
Both Austria and Germany celebrate New Year’s Eve with spiced red wine punch, suckling pig, and marzipan pigs that are translated as good luck pigs. Bakers will be familiar with marzipan; it’s made out of almonds and sugar, so it’s a confection of sorts, much like candy.
What to Eat on New Year’s Eve in Japan:
Soba noodles are consumed at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Japan, to ring in the new year. The noodles represent longevity and prosperity. But another tradition involves family and friends spending the day before New Year’s making mochi rice cakes. The guests take turns making small buns that are later eaten as dessert.
What to Eat on New Year’s Eve in Italy:
Lentils are served in Italy for New Year’s, because they are round like coins, symbolizing fortune. However, there are other foods to eat, like raisins, representing good luck, and grapes, which symbolize wisdom and frugality.
What to Eat on New Year’s in Turkey:
Pomegranates are eaten on New Year’s traditionally in Turkey for 2 reasons. One, because the seeds are round, which once again represent coins, and therefore, wealth. And two, the color red symbolizes fertility.
Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but as you can see, a lot of the themes are repeated. Pork, grapes, raisins, cabbage, peas, greens, and round bread. You get the idea. So what are you going to make this year? I hope I gave you some ideas. And that you were entertained as well. Have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve, whatever you do.
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