Food is a necessary part of celebrating.
You can’t have a party without good grub. As Julia Child famously said,
“A party without cake is just a meeting”
We agree. And you certainly can’t ring in a new year without lots of bubbly clinking among other festive food and drink that will promise you a year of prosperity, luck and good health.
You most likely have your own tried and true New Year’s Eve traditions. Special dishes that are only made once a year. Why not spice things up and add something new to the mix!? We hope one of this six popular international customs peak your interest and makes the cut!
Let’s dive in!
SPAIN: The twelve grapes of luck
In Madrid at the stroke of midnight, all eyes and ears are on the 18th-century clock tower (Puerta del Sol). And ushering in the new year would not be complete without a handful of green grapes.
On the first ring of the bell, grape one of twelve is eaten. There is one grape eaten for each dong of the bell. This apparently is easier said than done!
You get about a second or two for each berry (yes, grapes are berries). If you manage to get through your pile of grapes by the twelfth chime you have earned good luck for the coming year.
The twelve grapes of luck date back to somewhere around 1895 when vine growers in the area popularized this custom to better sell their crop. It has since become a beloved Spanish New Year’s Eve food tradition.
GERMANY: Berliner Pfannkuchen
Reading your fortune with a blob of melted lead, watching the cult-classic ‘Dinner for One’ and skipping laundry day are just a few of the New Year’s rituals and superstitions observed in Germany during Silvester.
You read correctly. Silvester or Saint Sylvester’s Day is a feast day in honor of the man who served as pope way back in 314 to 335. Since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, the anniversary of his death has coincided with December 31 and celebrated on the same day.
Although they are available year-round nowadays, one New Year’s Eve food tradition you must indulge in when celebrating in Germany is a fresh Berliner Pfannkuchen.
Once reserved for special occasions it now customary to bite into the deep-fried sugar coated buns filled with jelly in the early hours of New Year’s Day. Beware the mustard Berliner, there is always one lurking in a batch! A prank as famous as the custom itself.
NORWAY: Norwegian Risengrynsgrøt
The main ingredient of porridge until the 1800’s was barley, oats, and rye. Rice was an imported luxury item reserved for the rich and high status. By the 1800’s it was more and more available and became affordable to the working class, but still reserved for special occasions and holidays.
Thus rice porridge became a treasured treat! December is the most popular month to enjoy the decadent dish.
There is a popular custom of hiding an almond within the porridge and the lucky finder of the nut is granted a year of prosperity.
ESTONIA: 12 meals
Well if you are in Estonia you better be because there is a long-established practice of eating seven, nine or twelve meals throughout New Year’s Day.
These are the lucky numbers to strive for. Finishing off the correct number of meals ensures abundance and the strength of seven men.
But make sure not to totally clean your plate as a portion should be left for the spirits of your ancestors that may be visiting. Nowadays drinking in excess is as important as eating in excess to secure an prosperous year to come.
When midnight strikes on New Year’s Eve in Greece and many other areas in Eastern Europe it is time to cut the vasilopita.
This special Greek New Years bread or cake conceals a lucky coin hidden inside and whoever finds it will be the healthiest and wealthiest of the family.
To do it up right, a cross symbol is scored over the surface and the first piece is offered to Jesus Christ. The second is for The Virgin Mary and the third for Saint Vassilis. Once those VIP’s are taken care of, the eldest down to the youngest family member get served.
The ritual is believed to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year.
JAPAN: Ttoshikoshi Soba
Eating a bowl of soba noodles on New Year’s Eve has been a tradition in Japan since the Edo era (1603-1868).
Year-end in Japan can be a hectic time with lots of parties and obligations. When the 31st rolls around, it is common for it to be a quieter evening spent with close family.
And on that evening there is sure to be some toshikoshi soba or year-crossing noodles involved.
It is believed that the buckwheat plant is symbolic of strength and resilience and the noodle itself symbolizes a long life. The thin strands are also easier to cut than some thicker style noodles and represent the letting go of the regrets of the past year.
Another theory is that Japanese goldsmiths used to clean factory floors with balls of soba flour to gather up gold dust and so it also has the association of attracting prosperity and wealth.
Enjoy the dish with your loved ones just before the New Year temple bells ring 108 times.
🕛 What are your plans to welcome in 2018? Comment below! 🎉
I know for myself it’s going to be the lucky grapes during the countdown. And maybe a bowl of rice porridge for breakfast, a Berliner for lunch and soba noodles for dinner…
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing to celebrate, we hope you have an amazing year-end 🥂