Around the World in New Year’s Traditions


When the ball drops (on New Year’s Eve, that is) where will you be? You could be crammed into Times Square, with a million other people and one porta-potty. There’s a chance that you’ll be celebrating at a fancy-schmancy restaurant with a table of your nearest and dearest and some expensive delicacies. Or perhaps you’re planning a night at home replete with paper party hats and noisemakers. Speaking of which, did anyone else hear the rumor that the company that makes the funny year glasses is shutting down operation because 2025 is not as cool looking as, say, 2000? But I digress.

There are many ways to celebrate the dawn of a fresh year. And just because Americans might ring it in by getting wasted and eating overpriced meals doesn’t mean that that’s how you need to spend the night. This year, look to global traditions to guide your evening.

In Spain and Portugal the countdown doesn’t start at the last 10 seconds before midnight. It starts at midnight. At the stroke of 12 p.m., revelers begin eating raisins (or grapes), one raisin per second for 12 seconds, to commemorate the past 12 months. If you head to Midtown’s Alfama restaurant, you’ll be given a box containing the appropriately portioned amount as part of your $90 multi-course dinner. If shelling out the bucks is more than you allowance permits, indulge in a mini box of California raisins and throw them in your pocket in preparation.

Mochitsuki, or mochi (rice cake) pounding, is how the Japanese turn over a new page in their calendar. At EN Japanese Brasserie, you can opt to hammer out your own with a provided mallet and stone pestle … if you dare.

Some foods are considered good luck to eat on this occasion. For example: In the South, black-eyed peas are the rabbit’s foot of ingredients. In Korea, Tkok-kuk, or rice cake soup, is commonly eaten. Try Bibim-Bar to get your fix.

The French give jars of candied chestnuts to friends on New Year’s Day (does it soak up their hangovers or something?) and many countries indulge in pork and pig-shaped products. It’s unclear what their reasoning is. But like many traditions, it’s best not to ask too many questions. Just raise a glass … or raisins, Tkok-kuk, or pig’s feet … and toast to 2012!