Did you know there are a plethora of traditions surrounding the idea of maximizing one’s good fortune for the coming year? For those of you looking for last-minute boosts, or anyone starting the New Year and checking up, here are some tips for you (of course I make no guarantees, but it couldn’t hurt, right?)
- I live in wine country, so this tradition from Spain sounds like a good place to start – consume one grape at each strike of the midnight clock(Spanish grape growers started this tradition to rid themselves of a glut of fruit in the last century, and it stuck). This is a lo-cal tradition, at least 🙂 They say to take heed at the taste of each grape, as it signifies the tone of each month.
- Moms will love this one – the more leafy greens you eat at New Year’s, the more likely you are to have lots of money in the coming year (the green colour symbolizing money, of course). This also applies to legumes (peas, beans) – they swell when cooked, signifying a growing fortune.
- Did you know we don’t just eat ham at New Year’s to give the turkeys a rest? Pigs signify prosperity in many cultures, due to their habits of rooting forward on steady legs, and also due to their rich fat content. By the way, if ham is not your thing, any pork dish will do. Even pigs made of marzipan are considered lucky in Austria!
- Fish has been a popular “feasting food” since the Middle Ages (before refrigeration), as it could be easily preserved and cooked later. Baccala, or bacalao (dried salt cod) is popular in Italy and Spain from Christmas through New Year.
- Cakes of various kinds are popular in most cultures (surprised?) Often a token was hidden in the cake and the person receiving it would be the lucky one in the group. (See my recipe for “Twelfth Night Torte”, a French tradition for Epiphany)
- if you don’t want to eat too much but want to participate, how about passing along the food? A Scottish tradition for Hogmanay is to be a “first-footer” – the first person through the door of a friend’s house in the New Year, bearing gifts. You are to bring coal – to warm their house – or salt – to flavour their food – or sweets – to enrich their lives.
For those of you who want to hedge your bets, here are the things to AVOID for New Years’…
- lobster – it crawls backwards, thus signifying a lack of progress in the New Year
- chickens – they scratch backwards, and so could cause regret or focus on the past
- birds of flight – they could signify your luck flying away (was this why we chose the turkey as a popular holiday bird??)
And, for those wanting to start the year on the right foot, not over-indulging, take heart! You can tell your dining companions you are leaving food on the plate to symbolize food in the pantry all year (and perhaps a healthier waistline, too).
Whatever you eat at New Years’, however you ring in 2012, may you be with loved ones with a smile on your face.