New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are important holidays that are celebrated all over the world. Many places eat traditional foods on these days, often with symbolic meaning. In some US states, cornbread and black-eyed peas are thought to symbolize luck and prosperity. In Africa, there are some similarly symbolic foods infused with meaning eaten on these holidays, but traditional dishes without any particular meaning are also eaten.
In Nigeria, many believe the superstition that you should not eat poultry on New Year’s, to avoid ending up poor, i.e. scratching in the dirt like a chicken. Chickens also scratch backwards, and New Year’s is about moving into the future. Traditional foods that they do eat in Nigeria on NYE and New Year’s Day include:
- Fish stew: Fish are a staple in the coastal areas of Nigeria, and fish stew made with tomatoes and spices is a common meal
- Lentils: A staple in Nigeria, these are thought to symbolize prosperity since they look like coins
- Coconut Candy: A simple and tasty treat
In Kenya, a traditional meal that is eaten on many holidays is Nyama Choma. This is a grilled meat dish. It doesn’t have any particular symbolic meaning other than being filling and delicious. In Kenya, people often use any excuse to eat Nyama Choma!
A variety of foods influenced by various cultures can be enjoyed to celebrate the new year in South Africa. Here are some variations of just a few tasty items that you might find on your plate:
- Samoosas: Similar to India’s samosa, these use a delicious and aromatic blend of spices like Malay curry, coriander, cumin, and turmeric
- Beef Stew and dumplings
- Pap squares – a delicious variation of a staple dish made of ground maize
In South Africa, it’s important to eat a filling meal on New Year’s, perhaps to give one energy for the tradition of throwing furniture and appliances out the window! This is done as a way of clearing out homes for a fresh start in the new year.