New Year Food Traditions

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Just as Christmas has its traditional food and drinks, around the world many countries and cultures also have the same for New Year. Nick Mosley raises a glass of fizz and takes a closer look.

The Austrian’s see in the New Year with suckling pig. Pigs are culturally seen as a symbol of progress and prosperity so Austrian families even go to the lengths of decorating the table with mini marzipan pigs too.

A New Year’s Eve tradition in parts of Greece and Turkey is smashing a pomegranate on the floor in front of the door. The better the break, the more jewel-like seeds revealed, symbolising good luck and fortune for the year ahead.

The Welsh wish friends and neighbours good luck on New Year’s Day with a ‘Calennig’ gift. This is an apple with three twig legs stuck into it, alongside cloves and a sprig of evergreen foliage. Tradition says placing the Calennig on a shelf or window sill will bring luck to the house.

In the Far East, super long noodles are the order of the day. The Japanese enjoy long buckwheat soba noodles to encourage long life, but they are only lucky if you slurp them down whole without chewing. That may take a little practice for some of us.

Black-eyed peas are a New Year’s Day favourite in the deep south of the United States. Mixed into a salad with rice, the peas are considered to bring good fortune due to their resemblance to coins. The same theory goes in Italy where round lentils are eaten instead, and have been bringing luck to the Italians since Roman times.

On the Iberian peninsula, the Spanish and Portuguese celebrate midnight quickly eating twelve grapes as the clock chimes in the new year. The grapes symbolise the months of the year, and – should you want to try it – the task isn’t quite as easy as it sounds.

Possibly the most extreme New Year tradition is in Estonia where people consume as many meals as possible on 31 December, in the belief that with each meal they will gain more strength for the year ahead.

Whilst Sussex doesn’t have a specific traditional food for New Year, some families across the UK still celebrate midnight with the wider English rural tradition of ‘First Footing’. A dark haired visitor knocks on the front door at midnight presenting the householder a piece of coal to symbolise warmth, bread to represent food for the year, a coin to symbolise wealth and some greenery to encourage long life. In return the visitor is given a pan of fire ashes or dust to signify the close of the old year.

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