24 New Year’s Food and Drink Traditions Around the World
December 18, 2014
Here’s how the world says 'Happy New Year!' with food and drink
24 New Year’s Food and Drink Traditions Around the World
However you celebrate, there are plenty of ways to say "Happy New Year!" with food and drink, from Australia to Japan to Wales.
On New Year’s Day, Argentineans eat beans, following the belief that eating beans will help them keep their current job or find a better one in the new year.
Australians celebrate the New Year with a barbecue, grilling sausage, steak, and lamb. But younger crowds might spend the day at the beach or at a music festival like Space Ibiza in Sydney.
For good luck, Austrians serve roasted suckling pig on New Year’s Eve (which they call Sylvesterabend) and decorate their dinner tables with little marzipan pigs. Pigs represent progress and prosperity in Austria as well as in other cultures, including Cuba, Hungary, and Portugal, where pork is also served on New Year’s Eve. To drink, Austrians sip on a red wine punch, mixed with cinnamon, sugar, and other spices, and give a toast to Saint Sylvester, the fourth-century Pope whose feast day is December 31.
Single women like to play games on New Year’s Eve in Belarus to predict who will marry in the New Year. In one game, a pile of corn is set before each woman, then a rooster is let go. Whichever pile of corn the rooster feasts on first determines who will be married first. In another game, a married woman hides a piece of bread and a ring around her house, and her unmarried friends try to find them. Whoever finds the bread is said to be fated to marry a rich husband, and whoever finds the ring will marry a handsome one.
Denmark and Norway
Denmark and Norway celebrate the New Year with a dessert called kransekage (in Danish) or kransekake (in Norwegian), both meaning "wreath cake." It is a tall, cone-shaped cake with many rings layered on top of one another. The cake is made with marzipan and is often decorated with ornaments of flags and firecrackers and a bottle of wine or aquavit in the center. Another tradition, throwing dishes on a neighbor’s doorstep on New Year’s Day, is believed to guarantee many friends in the New Year.
Some Estonians eat seven, nine, or 12 meals on New Year’s Eve, believing that with each meal eaten, they will gain the strength of that many men in the New Year. Part of each meal, however, is left unfinished for the spirits of ancestors who visit the house on New Year’s Eve.
Once the clock strikes midnight and fireworks have been set off on New Year’s, Germans enjoy a traditional treat of jam-filled, and sometimes liquor-filled, doughnuts called "Pfannkuchens" in Berlin and "Berliners" everywhere else in Germany. Sometimes, a donut may contain a practical joke, like mustard instead of jam, which is considered by some to be bad luck. Like Austrians, Germans also dine on marzipan pigs for good luck on New Year’s Eve — which they also call Sylvesterabend. A traditional drink consumed on New Year’s Eve is "Feuerzangenbowle." To make the drink, warm mulled wine is mixed with cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. A large, cone-shaped piece of sugar is soaked in rum, placed in a holder above the wine, and set on fire. Then, the sugar caramelizes and melts into the mulled wine. Toasts at midnight are not given with this traditional drink, but instead with Champagne.
Symbolizing birth and re-growth in the New Year, an onion is hung on the front door on New Year's Day in Greece alongside a pomegranate (which is hung on Christmas). Later in the evening, a meal of roast lamb or pork is eaten, and an extra place is set at the table for Agios Vassilis, otherwise known as Santa Claus.
Hindus celebrate the New Year in the spring months, and the food served depends on the region. Rice and lentils (believed to bring good luck) are common dishes at New Year’s celebrations.
In Ireland, New Year’s is called Eve Oiche na Coda Moire, or The Night of the Big Portion, because there’s plenty to eat. An old Irish tradition was to bake huge cakes, smash them, and eat the crumbs, in hopes of a plentiful new year. Then, on January 1, buttered bread was left outside the front door or often given as a gift to neighbors, and the day became known as “Day of Buttered Bread.” Today, eating a big feast on New Year’s is meant to avoid starvation in the year to come.
On New Year's Day, Italians feast on the traditional dish of cotechino e lenticchie, which is savory pork sausage containing "lo zampone," or the hoof of the pig, and paired with lentils. The hoof is a symbol of abundance and lentils are believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the New Year.
Just before the clock strikes midnight, people in Japan begin the New Year with a bowl of buckwheat noodles called toshikoshi soba, which are known as "year-crossing noodles." Other traditional foods eaten on New Year's include kuromame (sweet black beans), kazunoko (herring roe), kobumaki (rolled kelp), rice cakes, and shrimp.
Celebrating New Year’s in Korea is like celebrating a birthday. A Korean dish called tteokguk, a meat and vegetable soup with rice cakes, is eaten, and once the soup is finished, everyone turns a year older together.
With each chime at midnight, Mexicans eat a grape, representing a wish. A Mexican sweet bread called rosca de reyes, which is baked with a coin or charm in it for good luck, is also eaten. Whoever gets the slice with the coin or charm is believed to have good luck for the year. Salted codfish, warm tequila punch known as ponche, and fritters are a few other traditional New Year’s foods.
People in the Netherlands ring in the New Year — or what they call Oud en Nieuw, meaning "Old and New” — with sweets. Oliebollen, fried doughnut-like pastries that are filled with apples, currants, and raisins and sprinkled with powdered sugar, are served along with apple beignets, apple turnovers, and Champagne.
In the Philippines, round shapes, representing coins, are believed to symbolize prosperity in the New Year. Therefore, Filipinos decorate their dining tables with all kinds of round fruit on New Year's Eve.
At the stroke of midnight, Polish people dine on pickled herring — a plentiful food in Scandinavia — believing it will bring a year of prosperity and bounty. Herring is often eaten with a midnight smorgasbord of smoked and pickled fish, pâté, and meatballs.
On New Year’s Eve, Russians decorate a Christmas-like tree, which they call "Novogodnyaya Yolka" (literally "new-year fir"), with sweets and a bright star at the top. The tree is kept up until Jan. 14.
At midnight, Scots celebrate New Year's, which they call Hogmanay, with the tradition of the First Footing, in which a dark-haired male aims to be the "first foot" to enter a neighbor's house, bringing gifts of shortbread, a black bun, and whisky to toast the New Year. The "first footer" is believed to have good luck in the coming year.
Just as Mexicans do, with every chime of midnight marking the New Year, Spaniards eat a grape and make a wish.
On New Year's Eve, Swedes serve rice pudding with an almond hidden inside. It's believed that whoever finds the almond will receive good fortune all through the New Year.
Americans celebrate New Year’s with a Champagne toast at the stroke of midnight.
On New Year's morning, children in Wales are given gifts of skewered apples covered with raisins and other fruit. Bread and cheese are also commonly given as a gift.