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EATING TRADITIONS IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
The beginning of the New Year is celebrated by many cultures on January 1st. Some celebrations, such as in the U.S., take place on the evening before the new year, featuring drinking, sweets, and general frivolity. In Spain and Portugal, it is customary to eat twelve grapes or raisins at each stroke of the clock at midnight (a similar practice takes place in the Philippines following the New Year's Eve fiesta meal, but only 7 grapes are eaten). In Poland, jelly doughnuts (paczki)are traditional of New Year's Eve. In Scotland, New Year's Eve is called Hogmanay complete with festive partying and foods such as triangular shortbread (calle hogmanays), scones, bannocks, black bun, ginger bread, and haggis, a pudding made from sheep's stomach stuffed with oatmeal and innards is drenched in Scotch whiskey before it is eaten. It's considered bad luck to propose marriage, carry out the garbage, break any glass during the evening, and good luck to see a dark-haired person as the first visitor of the new year (originating during the time a blond Viking at the door meant rape and pillage!). Auld Lang Syne, a Scottish song dating back to the early 1700s, is sung at midnight. In other societies, New Year's day is the more significant holiday. In Russia, children receive gifts and ginger cakes are eaten. In Japan, New Year's is a 7-day festival, starting on January 1st (unlike many Asian cultures which use a lunar calendar--see below--Japan converted to a solar calendar in 1868). Homes are cleaned, all debts are cleared, and food is prepared ahead for the week so that no cooking is done during the holiday. On New Year's day, 10 to 20 dishes, collectively called Osechi ryori, are served on a set of nesting, lacquered boxes. Each dish represents a different value desired for the new year, such as fish eggs for fertility, root vegetables for stability, black beans for health, kombu (seaweed) for happiness, and mashed sweet potatoes to keep away the evil spirits. Otoso, a special rice wine, is served. In many homes, mochi, a rice cake made by pounding hot rice into a sticky dough is traditional. A Buddhist o sonae mochi may be set up to preserve good luck and happiness in future generations. It consists of a large mochi on the bottom, which is the foundation provided by the older generation. A smaller mochi representing the younger generation is placed on top, followed by a tangerine symbolizing the generations to come. Even in regions of the world where there are no elaborate traditions, favorite family dishes are served on new year's day, or "lucky" dishes are eaten. In Greece, a sweet bread called vasilopitta is prepared with a coin baked into it for New Year's. The person who gets the piece with the coin in has good luck in the upcoming year. In the U.S. South, black-eyed peas (sometimes known as hoppin' johns) are traditionally served for luck on New Year's day. Throughout much of the world, the beginning of the new year in January is seen as an opportunity to celebrate life and influence the future!