ringing in the new year around the world
photo by Jennifer Johnson
Here in the U.S., New Year’s Eve is a time to gather with friends and loved ones, drink Champagne, eat decadently, and watch the ball drop at midnight. Around the world, cultures mark this festive occasion with diverse traditions, sometimes superstitious and sometimes silly, but always celebratory. Here are a few of the most interesting food-related New Year’s traditions around the globe.
In Spain, tradition has it that everyone try to eat twelve grapes, one for each strike of the clock, starting at midnight. The grapes are said to represent good fortune for each month of the year to come. In city squares around the country, people gather to eat grapes and drink cava together, one in each hand.
A more extreme version of the typical New Year's resolution is an annual tradition in Russia. Everyone writes down a wish on a piece of paper, burns the paper into a glass of champagne, and drinks when the clock strikes midnight. By consuming your wish, you increase the chances of it coming true!
Throughout the year in Denmark, people set aside old china and glassware that’s chipped or no longer useful. On New Year’s Eve, they throw glasses and plates against the doors of friends, smashing them and leaving the shards at their doorsteps. It’s said that whoever has the largest pile of shards at their door on New Year's Day is the most popular.
To name a few more traditions, in Greece, onions, which are regarded as a symbol of rebirth and growth, are hung from people’s front doors. On New Year’s Day, parents wake their children by tapping them on the head with the onion. In Turkey, as midnight strikes, it’s common to fling open the front door and sprinkle salt on the steps to bring abundance. Norwegians and Danes eat kransekake and kransekage respectively, a tall cake tower made with marzipan which sometimes has a bottle of wine or aquavit hidden inside.
The Dutch enjoy doughnut-like fritters called oliebollen on New Year’s. The fritters, which translate to fried oil balls, are filled with currants or raisins and coated in powdered sugar. In Amsterdam, you’ll find oliebollenkraams, or small pop-ups and trailers peddling oliebollen on the streets. In Germany and Austria, New Year’s is referred to as Sylvesterabend and little pigs made out of a variety of things, like marzipan, make popular gifts for the holiday. In Austria specifically, it’s traditional to enjoy a suckling pig and a red wine punch for dinner and decorate the table with these little marzipan pigs. Finally, to ring in the Lunar New Year in China, families prepare a bountiful feast often featuring longevity noodles, or long egg noodles meant to bring you a long a life.
However you celebrate the New Year, we hope it’s filled with great food and great friends!