New Year’s Traditions Around the World

We all have our traditional meals we eat for luck or prosperity or health at New Years, but what do other people eat? Here are some examples from around the world.

In Spain, many people watch the broadcast from Puerta Del Sol, Madrid. There party-goers gather in front of the clock tower in the square to ring in the New Year (much like Times Square, NY City). Those at home eat one grape for each of the 12 tolls of the bell. This is a turn of the 20th century custom supposedly thought up by grape farmers who had a fantastic yield that year. The tradition is now popular across Spanish-speaking nations.

In Austria and Germany they call New Year’s Eve Sylvesterabend, the eve of Saint Sylvester. For this celebration it is tradition to drink a red wine spiced punch and to eat suckling pig for dinner. The table should be adorned with small marzipan pigs—these are called marzipanschwein. Additionally, Glücksschwein or good luck pigs, are given commonly as gifts and are made from all kinds of things.

In Mexico tamales are the traditional food of New Years. One would be hard pressed not to find restaurants and street vendors selling them all hours of the day during the season. Tamales being a thick corn dough stuffed with meat, cheese and other ingredients. They are wrapped in either banana leaf or corn husk and are often steamed.

Many cultures share the tradition of a New Year’s cake. Many Greeks celebrate with Vasilopita, Mexicans enjoy the Rosca de Reyes, Bulgarians eat the banitsa, and the French enjoy the gateau or galette des rois.

In many traditions the cake is eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Other’s may consume this at Christmas or on January 6th, the Epiphany. Often there is a gold coin or small figure baked into the cake. Which ever guest finds this in their food should have a prosperous year.