In America, we’re used to a traditional champagne toast, some fancy finger food and a kiss to ring in New Year’s Eve and seal our fate for a lucky year ahead.
But have you ever considered New Year’s traditions around the world? From tamales in Mexico to skewered apples in Wales, New Year’s traditions vary from place to place, with each one symbolizing something special to its own unique culture.
Here are 10 New Year’s food traditions from different countries throughout the world. To keep guests on their toes and to make your upcoming gathering educational and tasty, too, try adopting some of these traditions at your upcoming New Year’s festivities!
1. 12 Grapes in Spain
In Spain, eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve is a tradition—and a superstition. If you don’t follow the tradition and instead skip the grapes, your fate in the New Year might be less than desirable. For the first 12 seconds of the New Year in Spain, Spaniards are intensely focused on eating the 12 “miraculous grapes” that serve to symbolize the 12 months of luck ahead.
If you’re looking to do this at your own New Year’s gathering, consider purchasing small seedless grapes. Pick them off their stems and portion out bowls with 12 individual grapes for each guest. Unless you live near a spot where you can hear the church tower chime, call out the 12 seconds once the clock strikes midnight. Have each guest eat one grape per chime (or second). If your guests eat all 12 grapes by the 12th stroke of midnight, they’ll have good luck in the following year. If they fail to eat all 12 grapes, they’ll have bad luck.
2. Tamales in Mexico
In Mexico, the tradition of tamales is big during the Christmas festivities as well as New Year’s. Tamales (which historians speculate dates back to 8,000 to 5,000 B.C) consist of masa stuffed with a savory filling, wrapped in a corn husk and cooked. They symbolize a special time for family to gather together and create something special.
If you’re interested in preparing tamales for your family and friends from scratch, make sure to set aside enough time to do so. Masa dough is a crucial part of constructing the perfect tamale, and it takes time. The dough is created from large-kernel corn that has been dried before being soaked in lime and ground into flour. From there, the creative world of tamales is yours to master.
If you’d rather opt out of making your dough from scratch, you can also use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Masa Harina Corn Flour. It’s made with dried corn kernels that have been cooked and soaked in limewater before grinding and is ideal for tamales.
Try this recipe for Poblano and Cheese Tamales where roasted peppers and melty panela cheese come together for an incredible vegetarian tamale filling. Like the recipe headnote states, even though making tamales can sound intimidating, they’re really quite easy! Gather your family and friends for a New Year’s Eve tamale-making party.
3. Soba Noodles in Japan
In Japan, buckwheat noodles called toshikoshi soba are known as “year-crossing" noodles. It’s a tradition for the Japanese to gather together before the clock strikes midnight and slurp bowls of these noodles. It’s a tradition said to date back 800 years, where a Buddhist temple gave soba to those who were poor on New Year’s. Because soba are firm and break off while eating, they symbolize “breaking off the old year.” In addition, their long and thin shape leads to a healthy and lengthy life.
If you’d like to start the soba noodle tradition at home, use Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat Flour to create your noodles. It’s a rich flour with a darker color and nutlike flavor. Remember to eat the noodles before midnight strikes, as you want to break off the old year (rather than have it overlap with the new year). Eat them warm or cold, and top with ingredients like herring, which symbolizes prosperity.
4. Skewered Apples in Wales
In Wales, children are given skewered apples covered with raisins on New Year's morning, a traditional Welsh gift. Calennig means a New Year celebration or gift, and the children would go from door to door wishing health and prosperity for the coming year, carrying skewered apples stuck with corn and evergreen in their hands. They’d sing and receive small gifts of money or food for their efforts.
To make your own Calennig, cover apples with flour, raisins, nuts and oats. Top with an herb and offer it to your neighbors!
5. Cotechino con lenticchie in Italy
In Italy, Italians have a New Year’s Day feast of cotechino e lenticchie, a savory pork sausage which contains "lo zampone" (or pig hoof) served with lentils. The hoof symbolizes abundance and the lentils bring good luck for the year ahead.
Try pairing your lo zampone with Bob’s Red Mill colorful Red Lentils. They're rich in fiber and are packed with protein, folate, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
6. Pickled Herring in Poland
When the clock strikes midnight, the people of Poland have a feast of pickled herring. It’s believed that herring will bring prosperity, and it’s often eaten alongside dishes like pickled fish and meatballs. Because herring is abundant throughout Western Europe, the herring also symbolizes bounty. In addition, their silver color is similar to coins, an omen for fortune in the future.
7. Oliebollen in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, oliebollen (which means oil balls) are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve at festive fairs. As the temperatures move below freezing, these warm treats covered in powdered sugar make their way into the hands of eager eaters everywhere.
To make these treats, dough is combined with raisins or currants before being placed in a deep fryer and dusted with powdered sugar. If you plan to eat them at your gathering, make sure to do as the Dutch do: pair them with a celebratory glass of champagne and apple turnovers while you watch the fireworks.
8. Rice Pudding in Sweden
In Sweden, New Year’s Eve is all about the rice pudding. It’s served with an almond hidden inside of it and the idea is that whoever comes across the almond receives 12 months of good luck in the new year.
For a unique twist on this treat, try making your own tradition of Tapioca Pudding. This sweet and satisfying pudding works well to complement the flavors of a hidden almond, and it will give your New Year’s gathering a tropical twist on a fun Swedish classic.
9. Novogodnaya Yolka in Russia
In Russia, on New Year’s Eve, a Christmas-like tree known as the "Novogodnaya Yolka” is decorated with sweets and a star. This traditional New Year’s Eve tree can be made with any type of fir or pine, just make sure to decorate it with candy (and adorn the top with a sparkling star).
10. Marzipanschwein, Austria
In Austria (and Germany) New Year's Eve is called Silvester and refers to the anniversary of Saint Sylvester’s death. Giving away little pigs (Schwein) made of Marzipan (sugar and almonds paste) is a New Year's tradition meant for good fortune. Austrians indulge in a punch made from red wine, sugar and cinnamon and feast on suckling pig for dinner. It’s also traditional for Austrians to cook pork ribs, roast or chops on New Year's Eve. Often, they’ll serve these lucky meats alongside fresh horseradish or lentils.
To celebrate Austrian style, make sure to wish your friends a Guten Rutsch (before midnight), a wish of “sliding well into the next year”
11. Pomegranate, Turkey
In Turkey, a pomegranate is opened on New Year’s Eve to ensure wealth and richness. The idea is that because there are many seeds inside a pomegranate, the “one” will become “many.” The symbolic nature of a pomegranate means life, health, and prosperity.
Once you break open your pomegranate on New Year’s Eve, consider using some of your seeds for a beautiful Pomegranate Rosemary Bread Wreath. Made with ingredients like fresh rosemary, nutmeg and cloves, they’ll leave the smells of the holidays wafting through your kitchen.
Whether you’re hosting a party of your own or heading off to a friend’s house this New Year’s Eve, we hope these New Year’s traditions around the world have inspired you to bring something a bit different to the table.
Have any favorite New Year’s Eve traditions or New Year’s dinner traditions of your own? Feel free to share them with us and our readers in the comments below!
From all of us at Bob’s Red Mill, we’re wishing you a healthy, happy, wonderful year ahead. Happy New Year!