New Year’s has its bounty of traditions. They are mainly based in superstitions. For example, kissing someone at the stroke of midnight will keep that person close for the whole year (so you’d better choose wisely), and making a raucous sends the evil spirits away. The menu for this time of year is likewise full of symbolism. Here are a few of the most popular dishes in traditional New Year’s Eve food.
Pork, ham, and all manifestations of pig are common and once convenient sources of land meat for a New Year’s feast. Across Europe, pigs were historically easier to keep than cows, and the annual slaughter typically happened around the New Year. In the southern United States, ham and ham hock are popular choices, while the northern states have ribs and sausage. Eating pig, in many countries, symbolizes enjoyment of the land’s abundance.
Black-eyed peas are a staple New Year’s food in the South. It may be because they happen to be so plentiful. The most popular dish starring this legume is Hoppin John, a concoction of rice, black-eyed peas, and assorted greens like collards, kale, and chard. It originated from West Africa, and no one knows from where the name came. Meanwhile, other countries, like Japan, include beans in their New Year meal, while many European countries eat dishes with lentils.
Round and Golden Foods
Peas, lentils, and other round things symbolize money. Hopefully, if you eat round, and even golden foods, you will have financial prosperity in the coming year. In Hoppin John, the beans are for coins while the greens are for cash. In some places in the States, you will find cornbread at the table. Meanwhile, some Europeans countries eat doughnuts, a symbol for coming full-circle.
Fish, a symbol of fertility and bounty because of their multitude of eggs, make a huge part of many New Year’s food traditions. Pickled herring, herring roe, sardines, and more make up the menu. In the South, tradition has it that eating some seafood is bad luck. Lobsters crawl backward, and crabs walk sideways. You want to go forward! In Sweden, though, a traditional New Year’s meal consists of a generous medley of seafood, including fish, crab, and other sea creatures. In Maryland, you wonder if the blue crab is bad luck on the New Year. However, because the Swedes eat it, perhaps the bad luck cancels out.
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