The end-of-year celebrations are a period rich in traditions and customs, particularly culinary. If in France, New Year’s Eve rhymes with traditional festive meals often including petit fours, oysters, foie gras and, of course, champagne to toast the new year, each country has its own way of celebrating this transition. Combining symbolism, festivities and luck for the year to come, these Christmas or New Year culinary traditions, often very old, reflect the cultural values and specific beliefs of each culture.
Spain: the 12 midnight grapes
In Spain, the tradition of the 12 midnight grapes is a deeply rooted custom in New Year’s celebrations, known as “Las doce uvas de la suerte” (the twelve grapes of luck). At midnight, Spaniards eat twelve grapes simultaneously, one for each tick of the clock. Each grape is believed to represent a month of the coming year, and eating all twelve grapes in time is considered an omen of good luck and prosperity for the next twelve months.
Poland: carp scales
In Poland, New Year’s Eve is marked by the custom of “carp scales”. Fish, particularly carp, is at the center of this tradition because of its symbolism linked to abundance and prosperity. When the carp is prepared for the New Year’s Eve meal, a few scales are collected and distributed to family members. These scales are then kept in wallets or purses, in the hope that this will bring wealth throughout the coming year.
Norway: the “risengrynsgrøt”
In Norway, the traditional Scandinavian Christmas meal is complemented by the tradition of “risengrynsgrøt”, a rice pudding cake. This tradition is often linked to the celebration of Saint Lucia on December 13 and continues until the New Year festivities. “Risengrynsgrøt” is a sweet and creamy rice pudding dish, usually garnished with cinnamon and sugar, in which a whole almond is hidden. The kernel is often blanched, a color similar to rice, making it difficult to spot. Like our galette des rois, whoever discovers the almond on their plate is then crowned “king” or “queen” of the day. Traditionally, this person is given a gold paper crown to wear throughout the day and may even be honored with special privileges or small rewards.
Philippines: round fruits
In the Philippines, these are the round fruits that we eat to celebrate the new year. This custom is based on the belief that the circular shape symbolizes prosperity and abundance for the coming year. Filipinos therefore have the habit of consuming a variety of round fruits at midnight to attract luck and wealth in their lives. Popular fruits consumed include grapes, apples, and even oranges. Families often gather around the table at midnight to share these fruits and celebrate the new year together.
Croatia: no lobster or crabs
In Croatia, superstition surrounds the choice of New Year’s dishes, especially when it comes to seafood such as lobster and crab. It is believed that eating them during this time brings bad luck, as these crustaceans move sideways, symbolizing backward rather than forward movement. Avoiding these sea creatures is considered a precaution to ensure that the new year is filled with luck and prosperity.