New Year’s Eve Culinary Traditions and Superstitions

by feastonthecheap on December 29, 2009

New Year’s Menu Ideas

Passed Appetizers
Smoked Salmon Challah Bites
Crab-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Caramelized Onion Tartlets
Prosciutto Palmieres
Fig & Olive Pizzettes

Sides and Starters
White Bean, Kale, and Sausage Soup
Split Pea Soup with Smoked Pork
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
White Beans with Fresh Basil, Prosciutto, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Cheddar-Black Bean Cornbread

Entrees
Cost-Conscious Cassoulet
Pumpkin-Spiced White Chicken Chili
Spice-Rubbed Steak with Chimichurri, White Beans and Tomatoes

Dessert
Nana’s Chocolate Gateau
Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes
Lemon Cupcakes with a Raspberry Mint Glaze

Mary Anne here. I have celebrated many, many New Year’s, but never quite grasped the reasoning behind its numerous traditions. Basically, I’ve blissfully gone from year to year, never realizing that I could have altered my fate simply by observing a few time-honored superstitions! Along the way, I was told that I needed to eat “bean soup” on New Year’s Day if I wanted good luck. Annoyed, I ignored the advice as I thought it was my good friend’s excuse for giving me a bag of dried beans for Christmas…

The past few days, Stevie Wonder’s song “Superstition” has been echoing in my mind. Perhaps it’s due to the recent spate of holiday posts that some ancient strand of memory grasped hold of my dear friend’s  bean story  – I’m not really sure – but I decided to do some research and try to figure out what this celebration is really about and how food comes into play.

I learned a few interesting facts and have decided to list them in case some of you out there might want to heed superstition’s advice and usher in the New Year armed with an arsenal of time-honored traditions!

  • Foods that bring good luck include donuts (the Dutch like this one apparently). Foods shaped in a ring symbolize that the year has come full circle.
  • Symbolizing prosperity, Black-eyed peas, popular in the South, represent pennies, while cabbage or leafy greens signify paper currency, and cornbread signifies gold. In the South, it’s traditional to serve black-eyed peas with leftover Christmas ham or a ham hock and cornbread dipped in honey as the first meal on January 1st. Apparently the key is to eat the peas, no matter what, and absolutely they must be the first thing you ingest after midnight.
  • Good luck traditions include the First Footer. This is the person who is the first to cross your threshold at the stroke of midnight. In England and Scotland, it was a popular custom and people were actually selected to be first footers, based on their attractiveness as they portend the luck you’ll have in the coming year. Apparently tall, dark, handsome men were at a premium, as were attractive ladies and blushing brides.
  • A child banging on pots and pans also reportedly brings good luck. I suppose this might be where our present-day noisemakers come into play.
  • The big sweep. This is actually a multi-layered tradition as it involves sweeping out the old year from your house. One starts at the back door and sweeps to the front door and out into the street, all between 11:59 p.m. and 12:01 a.m. Sounds like you’d need a few people to get this one accomplished.
  • In that same vein, in merry olde England sweeping coins into the house at midnight was observed.
  • While the house is being swept, someone opens all of the windows in the house at exactly midnight to – once again – exhume any bad luck lingering from the previous year!

All of these superstitions seem to be a whole lot of work, but it was fun researching them, providing plenty of smiles along the way.
However you plan to herald the new year and decade, may 2010 bring you all peace, health, and prosperity. Happy New Year !

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

jody January 6, 2010 at 6:27 am

darn it – i’ve been working too hard and didn’t have the opportunity to read this post before the strike of the new year. Will I still have good luck if I sweep and eat beans over the weekend!!!!
This was a GREAT post, thank you

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feastonthecheap January 6, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Geesh. This on-line thing can really get me confused! This is my second response as somehow the first is out there in cyberspace! Glad you liked the post and I hope you and your family had wonderful celebrations over the holidays. Thanks so much for your note!

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Rhonda December 29, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I lived for awhile in the south and adopted, most particularly, the black eyed pea tradition. Thanks for educated me on some other traditions/superstitions.

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