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EATING TRADITIONS IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
      In most of Asia, especially China, Korea, and Vietnam,  the  New  Year
begins with the first full moon of the first Chinese  lunar  month.  Special
foods are eaten in each region.
      In China, foods are prepared ahead (using a knife  during  New  Year's
might "cut luck") and include dishes with names that sound auspicious,  such
as tangerines  (good  fortune),  fish  (surplus),  and  chestnuts  (profit).
Meats, fried dishes (such as fried rice dumplings), and alcoholic  beverages
(which are all considered yang, or strong foods) are also common. In  Korea,
soup containing small glutinous rice cakes or steamed dumplings are a  must.
In Vietnam, bahn chung, a glutinous rice cake filled  with  meat  and  beans
cooked in banana leaves is a New Year's specialty. Pork with lotus root  and
shark fin soup are also favored. Small mandarin  trees  in  full  fruit  are
purchased for each home as a sign of hospitality.
      One tradition practiced in both China and Vietnam has to do  with  the
annual report on  the  family's  past  activities  to  the  gods,  who  then
determine the following year's fortune. In Chinese culture, an  offering  is
made a week before the New Year to the picture of the  Chinese  Kitchen  God
hung in most homes. The food is usually sweet and sticky, so that  when  the
God departs to Heaven to make his report, he will only say favorable  things
(in some regions the lips in the picture are actually smeared with honey  or
malt). In Vietnam, it is Ong Tao (Spirit of the Hearth), he  is  represented
by 3 small stones and honored at his altar with a sweet soy  bean  soup  and
sweet rice cakes.
      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.
      In Japan on New Year's day,  10  to  20  dishes,  collectively  called
Osechi ryori, are served. 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.
      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  is
seen as an opportunity to celebrate life and influence the future!


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