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New Year’s feasting around the world

By Lisa Crockett

Happy Hogmanay!  That is the Scots’ word for the last hour of the year and is synonymous for the celebrations involved with New Year’s in Scotland.  Of course no Hogmanay would be complete without shortbread and whisky.  And though that particular combination of goodies isn’t meaningful here in the states, it is appealing.  The coming of a new year is celebrated in unique ways around the globe with traditions that are new and different, and some just might transform your celebration from ho-hum to happening.

In Japan, New Year celebrations are focused on make-ahead foods called “osechi,” which are often pickled for easy storage.  Foods that can be prepped ahead of time allow for a New Year’s Day that doesn’t include lots of time in the kitchen.  Osechi are labor intensive to make, so if you’re feeling disinclined to learn a new skill, pre-made sushi is tasty and readily available, and though it’s somewhat more common than osechi, it’s still a festive touch to any celebration.

In Mexico, grapes are a fun and quirky part of the New Year’s traditions.  Twelve grapes are eaten, one per second in the last 12 seconds of the countdown to midnight, to signify good luck in each month of the coming year.  The year is then toasted with sparkling cider or warm citrus punch.  After a month of heavy, creamy, warm goodness, a few mouthfuls of fresh fruit and a refreshing drink seem an appropriate way to ring in a new era of health and wellness.

New Year’s revelers in Morocco might well find themselves around a bonfire in the Sahara Desert, nibbling on traditional favorites like chicken tagine, b’stilla, or stewed chickpeas.  For a quick and easy side dish here at home that will add color and interest to a party buffet, grab a box of couscous at the supermarket.  Make it according to package directions, but instead of using water, use warm broth.  Just before serving, add a handful of chopped dried apricots and a handful of slivered almonds.  Simple, delicious and great alongside fish, chicken or beef.

In the far northern reaches of the globe, New Year’s celebrations are a bright light in what is otherwise a season of darkness.  Finland welcomes the year ahead with plenty of fireworks and plenty of food.  You can re-create a Nordic holiday by hosting a smorgasbord, which is as easy as it is tasty since so many of the foods are available in the deli section of your favorite store.  Cocktail meatballs, cold cuts, cheeses and bread are familiar and yummy.  For an added element of authenticity, order some pickled herring online and then see how many guests are brave enough to try it.

On the opposite side of the globe, Australians are typically slathering on the sun block and heading out for New Year’s at the beach.  Since it’s a summer holiday Down Under, food on the “barbie” features heavily in holiday meals.  Although your guests are unlikely to join you outside, a grilled steak is a welcome treat in any season.  If you’re feeling up to it, don a heavy coat and fire up the grill for some authentic Aussie eats.  

If you’re not the kind of person who wants to stay up until the middle of the night to ring in 2017, pick one or two of these countries to feature as you celebrate, and welcome the New Year when they do.  Observing the holiday at the same time as another country gives you the advantage of both a certain exotic cache as well as an earlier bedtime.  So Bonne Année, Akemashiteomedetōgozaimasu, hyvää uutta vuotta, or Feliz año nuevo.  It’s a time of celebration the world over.  Here’s to you!



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