Holiday dishes vary a bit as one travels the world

Published 3:30 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

By By CAROLYN BIVINS Extension agent
Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 will be hailed with joy, noise and tears as New Year's Eve rings out the old and welcomes the new.
No other holiday is more widely celebrated than New Year's Day.
All over the world people have had and continue to have their lucky dishes to start the year. Including some of these favorites in your New Year's meal may or may not help you "be lucky" in 2004, but their origin and folklore are sure to provide additional interest and conversation to the meal.
Honey-dipped apples were a popular ancient Hebrew food and were always accompanied by a benediction asking for a good and sweet year.
Ancient Persians exchanged eggs at New Year's to symbolize the beginning of life.
Many Hindus still give their friends lemons for the same reason, while the Dutch give children an "oliehol," a homemade fritter-type cake with raisins.
In Spain, good fortune comes to those who swallow a dozen grapes, one by one, when the clock strikes twelve.
And in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, you eat your absolute fill of "calalu," a Caribbean vegetable. If you don't, they believe something terrible will happen to you.
In Japan, lobsters and oranges decorate doorways and tables to insure a long and happy family life. Old age was represented by preserved plums. Those who ate them would be blessed with a long life.
Fish and meats play a big part in the customs of many people. A favorite dish in Germany from Christmas through New Year's Day is herring.
If you serve herring it's believed that you'll never be without a dollar in the 12 months ahead. It's also lucky to eat fish to bring a year rich in material possessions. In Germany, white cabbage is also served to symbolize the acquisition of silver, and carrot circles assure the household of plenty of gold coins throughout the year.
In Sweden, it's traditional to bake a holiday ham, and Hungarians roast a pig for New Year's dinner.
Another custom believed lucky is to touch a pig at midnight, so restaurants turn a pig loose in the dining room to add to the merriment of guests.
Years ago in China, the only time meat was eaten by poor families was on New Year's Day, and it could not be cut with a knife lest this sever the good luck for the coming year.
Most popular of all customs in this country especially in the South, is the serving of "Hopping John," a mixture of black-eyed peas cooked with rice, meat, usually hog jowl or ham hocks, and vegetables.
The peas and rice symbolize keeping a pocket full of coins and the green vegetables symbolize having "green backs" (money) for the rest of the year.
The old feudal English custom of the Wassaill Bowl tops off the list of traditions. The special spiced ale was blended in a huge bowl and was handed to everyone present at any occasion or open house on New Year's Day.
The name comes from an old Saxon toast, "Wass Hael," which means "to your health."
Include some of these traditional "lucky foods" in your New Year's Day fare. Even if they don't bring you good luck in 2004, the folklore of these dishes is sure to bring a touch of interest and conversation to the holiday meal. And who knows? Maybe it does bring good luck.
Here's County Extension Coordinator Buck Farrior's favorite dish to serve to family and friends while watching the bowl games on New Year's Day. He says it's guaranteed to bring good luck to your favorite team.
Buck's Quick and Easy Brunswick Stew
1/4 cup lemon juice;
1 large finely chopped onion (Buck prefers Vidalia, Texas sweet, etc.);
1 14-3/4 ounce can creamed corn;
1 14-3/4 ounce can whole corn (drained);
2 14-3/4 ounce cans diced tomatoes;
2 10 ounce cans Castleberry's Pork Barbecue;
2 10 ounce cans white meat chicken;
1 14 ounce bottle of ketchup;
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce;
Blend all of the ingredients into a large boiler and simmer for one and a half hours.
Stir often enough to avoid sticking. Enjoy.