New Year’s Eve is surrounded by traditions and superstitions that supposedly ward off evil and ensure good luck in the new year. Everything from "Auld Lang Syne" and eating black eyed peas to champagne toasts and the midnight countdown stems from the thought that what you do in the last fateful moments of the year will have a direct effect on the year to come. And just as champagne and kissing at midnight are longstanding rituals in the U.S., there are a wide variety of traditions unique to different countries across the globe. From prizes hidden in cakes to eating 12 grapes at midnight, many of the world’s year-end traditions revolve around food and drink.
Foods are often associated with bringing luck and comfort, symbolizing wealth or resourcefulness, and even having healing powers, so it makes sense to focus on what you eat (and why) when ringing in the new year. In Spain, for example, one of the oldest and now most widespread traditions is to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. It started in 1909 as a way to cut down on the grape surplus they’d had that year, but it’s now a custom in Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, and Ecuador.
Many countries follow the tradition of hiding a coin or prize inside a dessert, whether it’s a whole almond hidden in rice pudding in Sweden or little surprises baked into a ring-shaped cake in Mexico — the good luck goes to the reveler who finds the hidden item in their slice. Sweets play a role in most New Year’s Eve celebrations the world over, with special cakes and pastries on offer every year, like apple turnovers in the Netherlands, marzipan in Austria, and fruit cakes in Scotland.
Of course, there are food superstitions, as well. It’s said that eating lobster is bad luck because they move backwards, which may mean setbacks for you in the new year. On the other hand, pork is widely eaten on New Year’s because pigs eat moving forward. Pork is also eaten because it’s fatty, so it symbolizes wealth and prosperity. So whether you’re the superstitious type or not, these 15 traditions are unique and delicious ways of celebrating the coming of a new year. The best part is, almost all of them include champagne!
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