December 29 2012 – Robert Fiumara
All across the world New Year’s traditions abound. Some seem stranger than others and some are certainly more intimate, but almost all long standing New Year’s traditions include food. Dining with family and friends for the new year is a sign of prosperity, luck and love. So it should come as no surprise that so many traditions revolved around the type of food that is eaten.
In Japan it is customary for the first meal of the new year to be a bowl of Soba noodles. Soba noodles are long buckwheat noodles that symbolize longevity and prosperity. There are a number of recipes for preparing these noodles either for a dinner for two or a New Year’s party celebration.
In Spain it is popular to eat 12 grapes, one for each stroke of the clock at midnight. There is no clear origin to this tradition. Some say that it comes from Spanish wine makers who had extra grapes and others say it is from a Spanish King who believed that the grapes themselves were a bastion of good luck, but it is said that you make a wish, one for every month of the year as the chimes ring in the new year, ensuring a happy and successful year to come.
One of the main traditions in the US, especially in the south is to eat a bowl full of Hoppin’ Johns or Black eyed peas with collard greens and corn bread. This tradition also has a couple of stories behind it. One says that the black eyed peas represent coins, the cooked greens resemble folded dollar bills and the cornbread is the color of gold so eating a bowl of these pork flavored beans will being financial prosperity in the new year. Others say that it stems back to the Civil war when supplies were raided, but because black eyed peas were seen as food for cattle, they were not taken and thus saved many southerners from starving and becoming a New Year’s symbol of luck.
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