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New Year, Old Traditions: Food Customs from Around the World

New Year, Old Traditions: Food Customs from Around the World

It won’t be long before we bid the old 2016 farewell, and wish a hearty welcome to the new 2017. More often than not this transitioning period is characterized by making new life resolutions and promises for self-improvement and achieving seemingly unattainable goals.

And while you cannot predict what the New year holds, there are certain old customs and traditions that have managed to withstand the test of time. What’s more, they remained deeply embedded in the spirit and psyche of different cultures up until today.

These traditions vary from burning bonfires of Christmas trees on the streets (in the Netherlands) to wearing polka dots (in the Philippines) but for the sake of brevity we are going to narrow our list down to only food-related traditions.


This South American country can boast of having the world’s largest salt flats, Salar de Uyuni and a very interesting New Year’s tradition. Putting coins into cakes and pastries is a common practice in Bolivian homes and the person whose piece contains the coin will be the luckiest one that year.

If you want to implement this as your new tradition, choose one of the many delicious cake and pie recipes from our website, wrap the coin in a foil prior to adding it to the cake and see who is going to be the luckiest in your family.


Another South American country with yet another very interesting New Year’s tradition. Similar to that of the Bolivians, Chileans place a golden ring instead of a coin, and they place it in champagne rather than in cakes, but the idea is the same: ensuring a prosperous year. Another custom that is believed to lead to a successful year is eating lentils when the clock strikes midnight. (Not a bad tradition at all, but let’s face it, the midnight kiss is a way better idea :)).


In the American South, or the old Dixie land, the meal that is typically eaten on New Year’s Day is black-eyed peas. And while one would expect barbecue or alligator meat to be on the menu, eating black-eyed peas is believed to ensure a prosperous year.

Eating meager food is mainly recognized as an act of showing humility, but some also associate this custom with the Civil War. Namely, General Sherman’s Union troops left only the peas (and salted pork) behind, as they were apparently not worthy of them.

But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so The Confederates saw the peas as a means to survive the winter, hence the association of black-eyed peas with good luck.

And while the origins of this tradition are vague, it surely is one that Americans like to observe, and this year you should go for our New Year’s Black-eyed Peas.


Everything that comes from the country of love and fashion must be extravagant. And this goes for their New Year’s Eve celebration as well. The French celebrate the new start with a special feast, called Le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre, translating to Saint Sylvester’s Day. It is actually the celebration of the last day of the old year, rather than the beginning of the new one, but the important thing is they celebrate it with pancakes and foie gras, and of course so typically French, champagne. Good fortune and success are guaranteed to everyone attending the feast.

You can always find some interesting pancake ideas among our collection of Best American Pancakes – Quick, Easy and Delicious Recipes.



Greeks are famous for their love of smashing things. If you thought that plate smashing was the only unusual tradition, then hear this: As soon as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, Greeks smash a pomegranate on the floor just in front of the door. The purpose of this tradition is to break the pomegranate open and see how many seeds are there. They are symbolic of good luck and prosperity, so the old saying less is more doesn’t apply here. The more seeds, the luckier the year!


And while at the topic of smashing and throwing things, an ancient Irish custom is to bang loaves of bread on the walls of the house. The action itself was believed to have the power of chasing evil spirits away from the house and its residents as well as inviting good spirits and good fortune in.

The Netherlands

The New Year’s table at Dutch households may be as versatile as ever, but one thing it must include is a ring-shaped treat. Doughnuts or pancake rings are commonly consumed on New Year’s Day in the Netherlands and are symbolic of coming full circle, putting an end to an old year and welcoming the new one with wishes of success and prosperity.

If you too want to prepare a delicious dessert, we recommend the Krispy Kreme Sour Cream Doughnuts (Copycat). Doughnuts so scrumptious, eating them will be enough, and the luck they are believed to bring will be just a bonus.


Much like the French, the Scots have their own name, and take, on what the rest of the world calls New Year’s Eve. “Hogmanay”, as they call the 31st of December, has Viking origins and it goes back to the time when Norse invaders celebrated the winter solstice, by throwing parties in late December. The final result is a mix of various influences (some of the Gaelic Samhain winter festival and some of the Yule).

But the tradition we are more interested in is that of presenting friends and neighbors with shortbread.

So, if you have someone in your life that is of Scottish origin, go ahead and prepare some Funfetti Shortbread Bites decorated with red and green sprinkles, and spread the positive vibes.


The Alicante region of Spain is famous for growing grapes. And it was there that in 1909 this tradition started. Namely, this was a fruitful year and the grape growers wanted to find an interesting way of taking care of the grape surplus. So, prior to the clock chiming midnight in Spain, and later on, Portugal as well, people have to eat 12 grapes (one for each month of the year) with each strike of the clock as it hits midnight, thus ensuring 12 happy and successful months in the year to come. There are some other sub-traditions originating from this one. For instance, if the sixth grape is a bit sour, then June may not be your luckiest month. A very interesting tradition indeed.


ice cream

The queen of the winter and the land of the Alps has a very interesting New Year’s tradition. Swiss people like to eat ice cream or whipped cream to welcome the New year. These dairy products are believed to represent the richness of the year to come, so after having a sweet treat, the Swiss always drop a small dollop on the floor and allow it to remain there.

Extra, What Foods to Avoid

There are also many superstitions tied to what not to consume on New Year’s day and eve. Lobsters, for instance, are considered not a very good idea because they swim backwards, and that’s not something you want to start your new year with. Along these lines is the belief that eating chicken would result in your luck “flying away”. Another thing you should avoid according to some, are white eggs since in the Chinese culture white is the color of death.

The fact that the above-listed food-related customs and superstitions made their way into modern times makes one ponder on whether there’s some truth to them. But be them true or not, preparing something delicious is always a good idea. Happy New Year!


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