10 New Year’s cooking traditions around the world
(CNN) — New Year’s Day means new beginnings. But maybe even more, it’s meant for food.
As the new year arrives around the world, special cakes and breads abound, as do long noodles (representing long life), field peas (representing coins), herring (representing ‘abundance) and pigs (representing luck).
Here are some of the New Year’s culinary traditions around the world:
1. Hoppin’ John, South America
Field peas or black-eyed peas are the basis of Hoppin’ John.
A great New Year’s Eve culinary tradition in the American South, Hoppin’ John is a dish of field peas flavored with pork or black-eyed peas (symbolizing coins) and rice, often served with green cabbage or other cooked green vegetables (as they are the color of silver) and cornbread (the color of gold). The dish is said to bring good luck in the New Year.
Different folklore traces the history and name of this meal, but the current dish has its roots in African and Caribbean traditions and was most likely brought by slaves to North America. A Hoppin’ John recipe appears as early as 1847 in Sarah Rutledge’s « The Carolina Housewife » and has been reinterpreted over the centuries by home and professional chefs.
The dish is said to have gotten its name from Charleston, South Carolina, and it is a true staple of Lowcountry cuisine.
2. Twelve grapes, Spain
In Spain they bring the new year with 12 grapes. The tradition has spread to many Spanish-speaking countries.
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Spaniards traditionally watch a broadcast from Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, where revelers gather outside the square’s clock tower to ring in the New Year.
Those in the square and those watching at home take part in an unusual annual tradition: at midnight, they eat a grape for every stroke of the clock. Some even prep their grapes – peeling and deseeding them – to ensure they’ll be as effective as possible by midnight.
The custom began in the early 20th century and is said to have been dreamed up by grape growers in the south of the country with a bumper harvest. Since then, the tradition has spread to many Spanish-speaking countries.
3. Tamales, Mexico
Tamales get a lot of attention in Mexico during the holiday season.
Tamales, corn dough stuffed with meat, cheese and other delicious additions and wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk, make appearances on nearly every special occasion in Mexico. But the holiday season is a particularly prime time for food.
In many families, groups of women come together to make hundreds of small packets – each person responsible for one aspect of the cooking process – to distribute to friends, family and neighbors. On New Year’s Day, it is often served with menudo, a tripe and hominy soup said to be good for hangovers.
Those who live in cities with large Mexican populations shouldn’t have much trouble finding restaurants selling tamales for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Eve. In Mexico City, steamed tamales are sold by vendors on street corners day and night.
4. Oliebollen, Netherlands
An oliebol is a donut-like product, traditionally made and eaten in the Netherlands during New Year’s celebrations.
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In the Netherlands, fried oil balls, or oliebollen, are sold by street carts and are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve and at special fairs. They are donut-like dumplings, made by dropping a ball of dough enriched with currants or raisins into a deep fryer, then dusting with powdered sugar.
In Amsterdam, be on the lookout for Oliebollenkraams, small temporary shacks or trailers on the street selling packets of hot fried oliebollen.
5. Marzipanschwein or Glücksschwein, Austria and Germany
Fresh marzipan in the shape of little pigs.
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Austria and neighboring Germany call New Year’s Eve Sylvesterabend, or New Year’s Eve. Austrian revelers drink red wine punch with cinnamon and spices, eat suckling pig for dinner and decorate the table with little marzipan pigs, called marzipanschwein.
Lucky pigs, or Glücksschwein, which are made of all sorts of things, are also common gifts in Austria and Germany.
6. Soba Noodles, Japan
Many Japanese people sip bowls of delicious soba noodles to welcome the new year.
In Japanese households, families eat buckwheat soba noodles, or toshikoshi soba, at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to the past year and welcome the year to come. The tradition dates back to the 17th century, and the long noodles symbolize longevity and prosperity.
In another custom called mochitsuki, friends and family spend New Year’s Eve mochi rice cakes. The sweet, sticky rice is washed, soaked, steamed and pounded into a smooth mass. Then the guests take turns pinching off pieces to make rolls which are then eaten for dessert.
7. King cake, worldwide
The French appreciate their galette des rois.
The tradition of a New Year’s cake is one that spans countless cultures. The Greeks have the Vasilopita, the French the gateau or galette des rois. Mexicans have Rosca de Reyes and Bulgarians enjoy banitsa.
Most cakes are eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve — although some cultures cut their cake on Christmas or Epiphany, January 6 — and include a hidden gold coin or figure, which symbolizes a prosperous year for anyone who finds her in their bracket.
8. Cotechino con lenticchie, Italy
Cotechino con lenticchie is the delicious Italian pairing of sausages and lentils.
Italians celebrate the New Year with La Festa di San Silvestro, which often begins with a traditional cotechino con lenticchie, a sausage and lentil stew said to bring good luck (lentils represent money and good fortune) and, in some homes , the zampone, a stuffed pig’s foot.
The meal ends with a chiacchiere – fried balls of dough rolled in honey and powdered sugar – and prosecco. The dishes find their roots in Modena, but New Year’s Eve parties are thriving across the country.
9. Marinated herring, Poland and Scandinavia
Herring rolled in vinegar, served with onions and pickles.
Because herring is abundant in Poland and parts of Scandinavia and because of its silvery color, many in these countries eat pickled herring at the stroke of midnight to bring a year of prosperity and bounty. Some eat herring marinated in cream sauce while others eat it with onions.
A special preparation of pickled herring for Polish New Year’s Eve, called Sledzie Marynowane, is prepared by soaking whole salted herring in water for 24 hours, then layering it in a jar with onions, chilli Jamaica, sugar and white vinegar.
Scandinavians often include herring in a larger midnight assortment along with smoked and pickled fish, pate and meatballs.
10. Kransekage, Denmark and Norway
This is a traditional Norwegian marzipan cake.
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Kransekage, literally crown cake, is a cake tower made up of many concentric rings of layered cake, and they are made for New Year’s Eve and other special occasions in Denmark and Norway.
The cake is made of marzipan, often with a bottle of wine or Aquavit in the center and can be decorated with ornaments, flags and crackers.
This article was originally published in December 2012. CNN’s Forrest Brown updated the article for 2022.