Top New Year’s Food Traditions in the World
Most countries have New Year's traditions that citizens have honored for hundreds of years in hopes of making the upcoming year better than the last. You may know that tamales are the traditional holiday food in Mexico, while in Spain, it's good luck to eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight. But there are so many other less common traditions to learn about and incorporate into your own festivities.
Take a tour around the world for some of the most delicious traditional New Year's food that will have you celebrating in style.
Eating a dozen green grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve in tandem with the chimes of a striking clock is said to guarantee good luck in each month of the upcoming year.
Their name roughly translates to "oil balls" in English, but don't let the term fool you — these Dutch donuts have been a delicious holiday tradition for hundreds of years.
According to legend, they were eaten by Germanic tribes in the Netherlands during Yule. Perchta, a Germanic goddess, would attempt to appease evil spirits by cutting open the stomachs of those she came across. However, she couldn't kill the people who ate oliebollen because they were too slick with oil to kill.
The term toshikoshi translates as “year crossing noodle." This dish represents good fortune in the new year. Eating it symbolizes releasing past hardships and looking to the future with strength and resiliency.
Country: United States
This Southern American dish dates back to the early 19th century and has its roots in African, French and Caribbean cooking.
Eating it on New Year's is a sign of good things to come in the new year. Each part of the dish suggests prosperity — the black-eyed peas are coins, the collard greens are cash, and a side of cornbread represents gold.
These cute pigs made from almond paste are given out before midnight on New Year's Eve to wish someone luck in the upcoming year. They are also popular in Germany.
Lentils have long been a popular New Year's dish, as they are believed to bring good luck and prosperity to whoever eats them. The tradition allegedly dates back to ancient Rome — Romans would give pouches of lentils to each other as gifts.
Le Réveillon doesn't have any superstitions attached to it. The food at this meal served on New Year's Eve varies, but some dishes, such as foie gras and oysters, are fairly common, as is plenty of wine or Champagne to wash it all down.
Pomegranates have been cherished as tokens of good luck for hundreds of years. Their bright red represents the human heart. Their seeds symbolize life, fertility and prosperity in the upcoming year.
Known as lechon asado, suckling pig or pig roast is a holiday and special occasion staple. A whole pig is roasted over an open flame, and it takes all day to cook.
This orange-infused cake with a vanilla glaze celebrates the life of Saint Basil and is served at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Baked into the cake is a coin — the person who gets the piece with the coin will have luck and prosperity in the new year.
Scotland practices a tradition known as "first footing." The "first foot" in someone's house after midnight on New Year's must be a dark-haired man for good luck in the coming year.
Visitors should also bring a gift for the host. Years ago, this would have been coal for the fire, whisky, shortbread and a black bun. Today, just shortbread and whisky alone are acceptable. A person who shows up with nothing brings bad luck.
This pretty, traditional bread contains a coin. When the matriarch, usually a grandmother, cuts and serves it on New Year's, the family member who gets the coin is granted luck and fertility.
Tamales are part of a holiday tradition that historians believe date back to 8,000 B.C. These corn husks stuffed with meat and masa dough have come to symbolize the bonds of family, as generations often gather together make this labor-intensive dish.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Prosperity and luck in the coming year are represented in this Irish dish as well. The green of the cabbage represents money. Corned beef or even pork is preferable to chicken, as cows and pigs do not scratch in the dirt for food the way a chicken would.
This holiday porridge (rice pudding) is usually served at Christmas, but its predictions extend into the new year, particularly in terms of romance. A person who finds an almond in the porridge will marry during the coming year unless that almond is bitter. If it is, they'll remain single.
If they find a coin in their porridge, they'll be rich.
Argentinians believe that if you eat beans before the clock strikes 12, you will see success in your career in the year ahead.
Not only does tteokguk (rice cake soup) represent good luck, it is said to give the person who eats it, a long, healthy life. South Korea counts the first day of the lunar year as the day a person ages, rather than their birthday. When someone eats tteokguk, they symbolically mark themselves another year older.
This German donut without a hole is filled with a variety of sweet flavors, from jellied fruit to chocolate. However, some are filled with unusual flavors, like mustard or onions.
The person getting the donut that may make their stomach turn will have good luck in the future.
This corn isn't for eating — it's for finding love. On New Year's Eve, single women gather and put a pile of corn in front of them, and then they set a rooster free in the room. The woman behind the first pile the rooster eats will be the next to wed.
In the Philippines, round fruits symbolize coins. They bring luck and wealth in the New Year.
Herring is abundant in Poland, eastern Europe and Scandinavia. On New Year's Eve, people eat it with vinegar, onions and pickles. It represents prosperity and bounty to come.
In ancient China, one of the first paper money currencies was known as jiaozi. Over time, this became a general term for currency, which was shaped like a dumpling. Eating dumplings before the new year, therefore, ensure that good fortune and prosperity would follow.
Rice and Lentils
Like the Italians, Indians recognize the lentil’s likeness to coins. A bowl of the legumes with rice will usher in wealth in the coming year.
Country: El Salvador
This New Year's Eve tradition is less about eating than it is about foretelling the future.
A minute before midnight, El Salvadorians crack an egg into a glass of water. They let it rest until the clock strikes 12, then look at the yoke. Whatever they believe it resembles will be part of the upcoming year.
This traditional dish is made with a mix of cheese, eggs and filo pastry. It is eaten all year round, but on New Year's, small pieces of paper and a coin are baked into it.
Some families put a dogwood bud inside to symbolize health. When they find it, they burn it, and if it pops while burning, they will see prosperity and health in the new year.
Gozinaki is a delicious dessert made from honey and walnuts. In centuries past, these were considered sacred foods and were part of a sacrifice to pagan deities. At midnight on New Year's Eve, today's Georgians put a piece in loved ones' mouths to represent their familial bond.
Unlike other parts of the world, in Russia, caviar is a dietary staple despite its expense.
On New Year's, it's tradition to eat caviar on buttered white bread or on pancakes. It represents wealth and abundance in the upcoming year.
The tradition of drinking soup joumou (pumpkin soup) on New Year's Day dates back to 1804. That's the year Haiti became an independent nation.
Haitian slaves were forbidden from drinking it under French rule. When the country gained its independence, the soup became a symbol of freedom.
Kuku Sabzi is an omelet served on Nowruz, or Persian New Year. Its ingredients represent rebirth (greens or herbs) and fertility (eggs). It also symbolizes a fresh start in the new year.
Calennig was a New Year's tradition enjoyed by Welsh children. They would carry apples or oranges impaled with three sticks that were studded with herbs, nuts, oats and leaves.
They would go door-to-door to sing songs or recite rhymes and get money, sweets or other foods in return.