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New Year is a time of celebration and of looking forward. Around the world, people get together to eat, drink and generally have a good time. Of course, exactly what people get up to on December 31st differs depending on where they live. Each country has its own traditions, and different communities within countries often have their individual customs too. Here’s a look at some of the best – and foodiest! – of them all…
Here in Canada, for example, there are many stereotypes. Some people believe those in Ontario tuck into ‘beaver tail’, a creation made from fried dough, their counterparts in Newfoundland are more likely to sip on some Screech rum. In Quebec, meanwhile, the réveillon is popular. This is a long dinner often followed by a party that is staged on New Year’s Eve. Many people return to réveillon suppers after attending Midnight Mass and lucky diners can expect culinary treats such as meat pies, oyster or pea soup and stews and relishes, finished off with several desserts.
If you’re lucky enough to be down in Mexico for 2014, you’ll be in for a vibrant New Year. Families decorate their homes in colors that represent their wishes for the year ahead. For example, red stands for love, green for money and yellow for work. Another tradition involves baking sweet bread with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. Whoever gets this in their slice when the bread is served is said to be blessed with good luck.
Across the Atlantic, the Scots know how to celebrate New Year too. Here, the occasion is known as Hogmanay and, as well as clinking glasses filled with champagne, revelers often indulge in plenty of Scotch whisky. There are many customs associated with the event in this northerly part of Britain, including first-footing. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor’s home. Gifts such as shortbread are often handed over and traditional foods include venison pies and, unsurprisingly, the Scottish favorite, haggis. For anyone feeling hung over on New Year’s Day, you can always join the Loony Dook, though it’s not for the faint of heart. This sees brave individuals leap into the freezing cold River Forth in Edinburgh and the event attracts thousands of spectators and swimmers.
A world away from the snow and whisky of Scotland, Australians ring in the New Year by making plenty of noise with rattles, car horns, church bells and fireworks. The following day is dominated by outdoor activities, such as picnics on the beach, surfing carnivals and rodeos. Meanwhile, on the Australian island of Tasmania, foodies are in their element. The Taste Festival is held over the New Year period and city streets are packed with food stalls selling an array of international dishes, as well as local wines and beers.
New Year’s Eve is also a gastronome’s delight across Europe. In Germany, families gather together to tuck into sumptuous seafood and meat dishes. Carp is especially popular and this can be fried, baked, grilled or smoked. It used to be believed that hiding a scale from one of these fish in a wallet for the entire year would bring an abundance of wealth. Sauerkraut is another staple, along with pork dishes including schnitzel and bratwurst. A more recent addition to German tables on December 31st is the fondue, which people like to share with their families and guests. At midnight, revelers clink their glasses and wish each other ‘Prost Neujahr’.
Meanwhile, in Japan it is customary to send loved ones handwritten postcards to arrive on January 1st. Also, adults give money to children in a tradition referred to as otoshidama. The cash is handed over in small decorative red envelopes. Food also features heavily in this country’s New Year celebrations. On the evening of December 31st, families eat a special selection of dishes, including fish cakes, boiled seaweed, noodles and sweetened black soybeans.
These are just some of the activities enjoyed by revelers around the world at New Year. The list of rituals is virtually endless! Where will you be as the bells strike this year?