Across the world, people are settling into the time of year that rekindles traditions and festivities. Celebrations of life’s treasures and hopes for prosperity and health abound, many of which center around certain cherished foods.
The coming month is a time to tell stories, collect memories, and believe in the powers nature offers us in our food. We may not be superstitious, but we do live by the power of positive thoughts--including that some ingredients have properties that may only be described as magic. From wishes of love to those close to you, to cultivation of monetary prosperity, to even warding off evil powers, here are a few globally-celebrated ingredients that will bring luck and light into your holiday gatherings this year.
Green lentils are taken with holiday meals to bring the eater luck and fortune, specifically in the realm of money! Their coin-like shape inspired this tradition, which is rooted in Roman superstitions and celebrated across Italy and Brazil right after midnight on New Year’s Eve. They bring a wealth of nutrients and heartiness fitting for a holiday feast.
In Brazil, abundance is celebrated and willed by consuming a bountiful harvest of fruit with a New Year’s meal. Most prized is the pomegranate, whose plentiful seeds symbolize wealth in the eater’s life. Eating 12 grapes with each stroke of the midnight clock is another tradition practiced in several countries across the world and is said to promise prosperity.
Decadent sweets are enjoyed in Arab festivities to welcome a new year of life. Creamy ros bil laban, with flavors of saffron and cinnamon or a floral infusion of rose water, is enjoyed along with basbousa and baklava, often topped with a crunch of pistachio.
As a symbol of luck, toshikoshi soba is eaten in Japan, its umami-forward dashi of dried bonito flakes and dried kelp bringing warmth to the senses at a time of forward movement. Yi Mein, also called “longevity noodles,” is a staple of Chinese festivities, and is meant to be slurped whole to get the most out of its benefits for a long, happy life.
Chocolate is a celebrated ingredient year-round in Peruvian cuisine, but is especially enjoyed as a Christmastime treat. A rich brew of cocoa, milk (both whole and evaporated), and warm spices brings hearts together in gatherings called chocolatadas. Cinnamon, anise, and clove invigorate the medicinal drink, which is often enjoyed with a slice of panetón.
The bright golden color a bit of saffron lends to Lussekatter, or Swedish saffron buns, is said to ward off the Devil in a Saint Lucia’s Day ritual on December 13th. The warm buns carry a light sweetness and rich consistency from a buttery dough, and are garnished with raisins in the center of the twists to create the perfect winter treat.
Less is more 🐝