Grapes and champagne. Those two words make us think unconsciously in the Spanish New Year’s Eve, where the biggest challenge is to take those twelve grapes without choking and in unison with the chimes. Like most of the origins of New Year’s gastronomic traditions, there is no certain date or a single reason why in Spain we perform this rite at midnight. Some opinions relate it to an influence of our neighboring country, France, of those who inherited it from the aristocrats. Others go further and say that after observing this rite, the humblest Spaniards decided to imitate them in order to mock them performing this same act but in front of the Plaza del Sol.
Although its origin is not clear, every year on the 31st, families in Spain take this fruit to attract luck. But not in all countries there is this custom. If we move away a little we find other traditions of New Year’s Eve consolidated as well.
In Spain it is a tradition to have twelve grapes to welcome the new year. On New Year’s Eve the twelve grapes or grapes of luck are placed in front of each person. They should be eaten with the last twelve chimes of the clock to welcome the new year that begins and symbolize the twelve months of the year. The most famous place to take grapes in Spain is the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, in front of the Casa de Correos clock.
In the beautiful Italy, they eat lentils hoping to have good luck and this tradition goes back to the Middle Ages. The reason? At that time there was a custom of giving a small bag of this legume to friends and family to wish them good fortune. Nowadays, it is still thought that whoever eats this recipe (accompanied with cotechino) will have money the following year.
It is not the Roscón de Reyes as we know it here in Spain but the tradition is very similar. It is a delicious bread, called vasilopita, which hides a gold or silver coin inside. Whoever finds it will have luck throughout the year. This almond bread has a rounded shape, without holes, as if it were a sponge cake. It is a real delicacy, and in the end, the gift is the least important thing. People tend to share it and see who is the lucky one who discovers the coin.
Among the traditions that are popular in Germany we find some interesting stories. One of them is not to throw away the remains of the food before twelve o’clock; as it is assumed that this way there will be no shortage of food during the rest of the year. It is also common to eat the traditional raclette, cabbage and carrots as they will attract financial stability. All accompanied by Feuerzangenbowle, a hot punch that is made with red wine, rum, oranges, lemons, cinnamon and cloves and whose preparation is complicated because you must burn the alcohol of some of its ingredients.
Although the image looks like Spanish buñuelos, what we see is a sweet made in the Dutch houses for New Year’s Eve: the Oilebollen. We can also find these puffs filled with raisins throughout Christmas in many of their bakeries, although the tradition is to do it at home with your family. This way they will be able to prepare the body, calorically speaking, so that later they do not suffer that much the plunge in the frozen water of the cannal (another of their traditions).
At first glance it might look like a gift wrapped in banana or bijao leaves. And it does not get too far away from reality since the hallacas are given away to wish good luck. It consists of a dough of corn flour pigmented with onoto or achiote that is stuffed with beef stew, pork and chicken. The truth is that there are many options and some people also fill them with fish. All these is added to a variety of other ingredients such as olives, onions, paprika… Finally it is rolled, as shown in the image, with banana leaves or bijao and then boiled. The result is beautiful and delicious.
The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) is celebrated much later than ours, in September; and is typical to eat apple with honey and pomegranates. It is also common to welcome the year with the new fruits of the season and with fish. Some traditions that join with others more religious and that are carried out for several days… A genuine feast.
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