On the first day of 2019, what will the people of the world eat to celebrate the New Year?
In Korea, it is quite simple to prepare the New Year’s dish, tteokguk. The long rice cakes with smooth surfaces are sliced thinly and put into boiling, milky-white meat stock. Chopped green onions are added and bowls of tteokguk are served topped with narrow slices of cooked egg. To enjoy tteokguk, you don’t need many side dishes; fresh winter kimchi is more than enough. The cold usually hits the hardest on New Year’s Day, and your mind and body may feel like shrinking, along with your appetite, but the hot broth and chewy rice cakes will warm and fill you up. The ingredients of the stock vary in different parts of the country as people use beef, chicken, pheasant, oyster, or seaweed, depending on where they live. Whatever the ingredients are, everyone’s New Year begins with their first bowl of tteokguk, and with the feeling of having gotten one year older.
In Japan, where the New Year holidays are observed from January 1 to 3, osechi is prepared and eaten throughout the three days. Osechi includes steamed shrimp, black soybeans, anchovies, lotus root, chestnuts, kelp, and herring roe cooked in soy sauce, and is served in three- or five-layered lacquer boxes. The ingredients are cooked in a way so as not to easily go bad, as osechi is eaten over the course of three days. Each ingredient carries best wishes for the New Year. For instance, anchovies symbolize a good harvest; black beans, health; and herring roe, many children.
In the southern United States, the eccentrically named Hoppin’ John is usually eaten on New Year’s Day. It is a soupy dish made by boiling black-eyed peas, rice, pork, cabbage, and turnip greens. The black-eyed peas symbolize coins and the greens represent dollar bills. One cherished superstition says that the person who takes the dish with a coin hidden underneath will have a year of good luck and wealth.
In Europe, New Year’s Day dishes are often made with pork. In Italy, there is an old belief that eating pork brings abundance, and people eat cotechino con lenticchie, which combines cotechino (pork rind sausage) and lentils, on New Year’s Day. Lentils also signify wealth and abundance. No matter where people live, they seem to share the common wish for luck and wealth for the New Year.
In Germany, marzipan, a confection made of sugar and ground almond, is eaten on New Year’s Day. Marzipan was a major trade item among Hansa cities in the Middle Ages. Marzipan itself does not contain pork, of course, but it is often shaped in the form of good luck pigs that are called marzipan pigs.
Regardless of the differences in region, race, or generation, New Year wishes are nearly the same everywhere. All people around the world wish for health and wealth, and their shared wishes are represented in unique dishes. Why don’t you multiply your luck for 2019 by trying New Year’s dishes from across the globe?
Written by Kim Shinyoung
Illustrated by Jeong Hyoju