Can you believe 2014 is here? It seems like families and friends were just sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes and apple pie are some of the foods Americans enjoy on Thanksgiving Day. Many of these dishes are repeated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with foods from other cultures added to the table. My childhood consisted of an Italian meal on Christmas Day and a German meal on New Year’s Eve. Some years, I stick to tradition. Other years, I don’t, but as I sat down to write a New Year’s Day blog, I wondered what other cultural traditions involve food on this day.
Worldwide, many countries celebrate a belief that a certain food, or foods, when eaten on New Year’s Day will bring them good luck and prosperity. Revelers in Spain eat twelve grapes at midnight, one grape for each stroke of the clock, with each grape representing the months of the year. The tradition dates back to 1909 when the Alicante region had a surplus of grapes. The idea spread to other countries, such as Portugal, Cuba and Mexico. Peru also joined this tradition and has added a thirteenth grape for good measure.
Legumes (lentils, beans and peas) are small and round. When cooked, they resemble coins and are eaten in the hopes of financial rewards throughout the years. Italians pair lentils with sausage. Germans partner their legumes with pork, usually in split-pea soup. In Brazil, the meal is usually lentil soup or lentils and rice.
Black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin’ john are tradition in the southern part of the United States. The peas are thought to bring good luck, or so the legend dating back to the Civil War claims. Vicksburg, Mississippi ran out of food while being attacked. Residents discovered black-eyed peas and proclaimed the pea to be lucky.
New York began a tradition of receiving callers on New Year’s Day. The Dutch held ‘open house’ and served donuts steeped in rum, cookies, and honey cakes. The custom spread throughout the United States, with George Washington opening his house the first New Year’s Day after his inauguration. Some folks advertised their ‘open house’ in the newspapers, listing the hours they would be home to receive visitors. Eventually, this led to disaster, as strangers began dropping in for free food and drink. By the end of the nineteenth century, the practice of advertising ended, but folks still held ‘open house’ for their friends.
For me, the idea of hosting numerous visitors on New Year’s Day is overwhelming. The rush of Christmas is behind me, and I prefer a quite day with the hubby and kiddo. I usually take down the tree, pack away the decorations and fall onto the couch that night and mindlessly watch television, regaining my energy to get through the next few days before the kiddo goes back to celebrate.
However you celebrate the day, may it be a good one, and may God bless you with health, safety and love throughout 2014.