A good friend and coworker of mine has given me inspiration for a new series of blog posts. As part of being the logistical wizard I am, we make a lot of jokes about my actually casting spells to accomplish things (or just turn people into newts, ala Monty Python they do usually get better). So a few days ago he sends me a picture of a book, Llewellyn’s 2016 Spell a Day Almanac with the tag line of “Hey, it’s 50 percent off!” I joked that “You did forget to give me a Yule gift this year.” The next day at work he shows up with it and puts it on my desk. Supposed to be a great joke. As I flipped through the book though I got an idea. Here are 365 prompts for my blog. I am a few days behind so I do need to catch up a bit. I will try to get a few a day posted until I get caught up, then I can just post the one a day. I am not going to post the spell or anything like that. This is simply to give me a jumping off point to talk to you lovely people.
Let’s start here with January 1st, 2016. The spell for today has to do with the obvious beginning of the year. Several cultures have a special meal they would prepare to ring in the new year for good luck and prosperity. Here in the U.S. of A., being the melting pot that we are, we have regional favorites and ancestral traditions that sometimes blend into new and exciting ways.
Being from the south east, a traditional meal involves black eyed peas, ham, and collard greens. Now, I don’t claim to have always eaten this meal, but it is popular in the southern states. Might be time to build a tradition like this in my family for next year. I will have to continue some research and find a good recipe to be our traditional New Year’s dish.
Thanks goes out to AllRecipes.com for this Ham and Collard Greens recipe that makes me think of home. Add in some black eyed peas, a side dish of rice, and you are all set for a great southern new years meal. This is making me hungry thinking about it.
Let’s move onto something for those of you with a sweet tooth shall we?
The United States was heavily influenced by the Dutch who brought us several signature flavors like caraway, coriander, cardamom and honey. It is traditional to use these strong flavors in cookies and cakes around the new year to bring good luck and a prosperous future. The Dutch brought us a spiced cookie supposed to be good luck to eat on the beginning the new year. Check out this recipe I found Global Cookies – Apees I think next year I am going to have to make some of these as they sound delicious.
The funniest traditional New Year’s dish that I found in my research is the Pennsylvania Dutch (and others of German descent). They pair sauerkraut with pork for good luck. This is because of an old saying that the “pig roots forward”. I had never heard that before.
Traditions involving consuming something in 12s (for the months) are not uncommon. Spain, Portugal, and it’s colonies have a tradition where they consume 12 grapes during the 12 chimes of midnight. The goal is to eat all the grapes before the clock is finished to welcome in the new year. Some feel that the taste of the grapes gives an indication of each month. So if the 7th grape were to be bitter, watch out in July. The Philippines tradition involves 12 round fruits. Could you imagine trying to consume 1 grape, 1 orange, 1 apple, 1 peach, 1 kiwi, 1 cantaloupe, 1 plum, 1 persimmon, 1 longan (or as the Chinese call them, Dragon Eye), 1 honeydew, 1 cherry, and then finish it off with 1 watermelon? Sure there are some other smaller fruits you could add in there such as the Asian pear or maybe some blueberries (frozen if out of season in your neck of the woods). Where would the fun in that be right? How about this beastly looking fruit?
Ok, now that I am given you a nightmare about trying to scarf down 12 of those things. Wait, you weren’t thinking that? I bet you are now. Ha Ha.
The Norwegians are a little tamer in their tradition. It is all about eating rice pudding, simple enough right? However, the goal is to score the bowl with an almond tucked away in the mush. They can keep it in my opinion.
Neighboring Scandinavia is a little more practical. You eat pickled herring. Presumably this is because their fishermen eat a lot of it. I suppose if the fishermen had a good year, you weren’t starving to death in the depths of winter and can enjoy the fruits of their labor. I think I would starve.
The Greeks can’t seem to get away from the pomegranate. Not only is it featured in the whole reason we have winter, according to their mythology of Hades tricking Persephone into becoming his bride and staying in the underworld by getting her to eat the seeds of a pomegranate. It is apparently a tradition in Greece to hang the fruit around their homes. At midnight they tear those things down and smash them on the front doorstep. Seems overkill for trying to banish away winter and welcome in a new year to me.
Leave it to the Japanese to give us a challenge I can get behind. I love pasta in most of its myriad forms. The goal is to eat a soba noodle without breaking it. To do so signifies a long life and good luck in the upcoming year. Sounds like a good way to ring in the new year to me.
This list I am sure is not exhaustive, and each family could have its own traditions. I just thought I would share a little of my research with all of you. In the comments, share what you traditionally eat to ring in the new year, or just what you did eat this new year. Until next time gentle readers.