Celebratory cuisine from across the globe…

New Year is a time for wiping the slate clean; it’s a time full of promise and excitement. It’s also a time to eat and drink – in some rather unusual ways it would seem. From the delicious to the weird and wonderful, here’s the low-down on how food is used to ring in the New Year the world over.

Who’d have thought that the humble lentil would signify wealth and prosperity? Well, that’s the belief in Brazil, so these tiny nutritious pulses are served as the first meal of the New Year in soup or with rice.

Grab a peach or an orange and join the celebrations in the Philippines. Here, folk believe that eating spherical fruits is will ensure the next 12 months will be joyful and, indeed, fruitful.

Forget the Champers; in Spain, it’s simply the humble grape that gets people excited. Pop a juicy orb into your mouth on each of the 12 strikes of midnight and you’re guaranteed a splendid 2014.

Continuing the fruity theme, the Czechs employ an apple to look into their futures. Simply cut it in half and examine the shape of the core – a cross suggests that things are looking a little less than rosy, while a star means the future’s bright.

The Greeks serve many traditional dishes to celebrate the new calendar year, but the vassilopitta, or St Basil’s cake is a particularly interesting one. The chef will secrete a shiny silver or gold coin inside the cake mixture. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake, assuming they don’t break a tooth, will be have good luck all year round.

Traditionally, in the southern states of America a dish called Hoppin’ John is served. Combining black-eyed peas, which represent pennies, rice, onion and bacon, this dish is eaten on New Year’s Day to boost the chances of a plentiful year. The extra-superstitious leave three peas in their bowl to symbolise luck, fortune and romance.

In Austria it’s about everything porcine. Porkers are believed to be animals of progress, because they move forward when rooting for food rather than scratching backwards like chickens and turkeys. In Vienna pigs are apparently let loose in restaurants, so diners can touch them as they pass for good luck. Celebrants dine on suckling pig as another lucky charm and tables are often decorated with pig-shaped sweets and chocolates.

The Swedish New Year celebrations are very similar to our own, involving plenty of booze and food. I recommend making a Swedish smorgasbord and some spicy glogg to party in style.

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