Eat in the New Year



I don’t know about everyone else’s New Year’s Day menu, but if you were to dine with our Southern household, I know exactly what you’d be having for dinner tonight. It was the same every year.

Ham Steak, Hoppin John (a black-eyed pea concoction), yellow rice, corn bread, and an orange jello salad. We were told that such fare was a family tradition that brought health, wealth, and good fortune to those who partook of the meal.

Ours was not the only tradition that was played out at the dining room table around the world. There seem to be as many New Years Day food staples as there are cultures:

SPAIN:   If you celebrate the New Year in Spain, you’ll be wanting to bring twelve grapes with you. Their custom is to pop a grape with each chime as the clock strikes midnight.

NETHERLANDS: The Dutch will be looking for a local food cart for their annual portion of oliebollen (fried oil balls). These doughnut-like dumplings contain currants or raisins and are sprinkled with powdered sugar.

JAPAN:  As far back as the 1600s, Japanese families are accustomed to eating soba noodles at midnight to symbolize their desire for longevity and prosperity.

ITALY:  Italians end the year by celebrating La Festa di San Silvestro and partaking of the traditional sausage and lentil stew known as cotechino con lenticchie. The lentils are said to represent money and good fortune.

DENMARK/NORWAY:  You’ll see towers of cake in these nations as the residents celebrate with their traditional Kransekage (wreath cake). Concentric rings of cake are layered one atop another, decorated and oftentimes have a bottle of wine situated in the center hole.

MEXICO: Tamales, a favorite food at any time of the year, becomes even more prominent at New Years. It is often served with menudo, a soup said to be able to cure hangovers.

AUSTRIA/GERMANY: There will be plenty of pigs on the table in a German/Austrian household. Suckling pig is sure to be on the menu as well as Marzipanschwein, little pigs made of marzipan.

POLAND/SCANDINAVIA: Pickled herring is the go-to meal for New Years in these countries – often served in a cream sauce or with onions. A special treat called Sledzie Marynowane is make by soaking salt herrings in water for a day and then layering them in a jar with onions, allspice, sugar and white vinegar.

VARIOUS COUNTRIES: A tradition that spans multiple cultures is the baking of a New Year’s cake. Within the cake is usually hidden a gold coin or figure and the person who finds it in his slice is said to be destined for a prosperous year.

Whatever your tradition, eat heartily and have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories – even those found around the dining room table. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit

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