Inspiration

12 New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Are you trying to push Covid-19 behind you? I am. Especially since I’m awaiting a test to see if I’m positive or not. Hopefully, not. A family member who tested positive is asymptomatic but everyone in the household decided to get a test.

So, while we’re waiting and isolating, I’m reading and writing. With New Year’s rapidly approaching, and the annual group festivities out the window, I found these traditions from around the world that you can do while isolating or semi-isolating.

Traditions are important, to me, because they give a feeling of continuity and security. Through the decades, my traditions have changed from parties to fancy dinners out, to family dinners, movies with my teens, and the past few years to watching the ball drop on television or YouTube.

This year, I’m saying good riddance to 2020 and adopting a couple of rituals from other countries to celebrate and embrace the new year.

Argentina:

From the land of Tango, they celebrate New Year’s Eve with a bowl of beans. People believe that eating beans before the clock strikes midnight means they will have good luck in their careers in the year ahead. (I think this one is a practical joke, myself, if you get my drift).

Costa Rica:

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

This is a tradition where you get your last steps in for the evening. It’s tradition to grab a suitcase and run around the block in the hopes of traveling in the new year. This is to be done at midnight.

Uh, no. This one is not for me. I’d be traveling to the hospital from slipping on wet concrete or dog poop.

Denmark:

A bit of travel, but only from a chair to the floor. Just before midnight, stop what you’re doing and get on a chair to execute the jump like a Dane would. If you don’t jump, it’s said that you’ll bring bad luck for the following year, so please, I’m begging you — do not forget to jump. If you’re a Dane. If you’re not, it’s optional.

Ecuador:

A bit of fire and smoke: People head outside to burn effigies that symbolize the year. By lighting the effigy on fire, you’re letting the bad of the year go and moving onto the next.

Do you think a CoVid piñata would suffice? What would you burn in effigy?

Germany:

Berliners-German Doughnuts

Yum, doughnuts. Germans enjoy a traditional treat of jam-filled, and sometimes liquor-filled, “Pfannkuchens” in Berlin and “Berliners” everywhere else in Germany. Sometimes, a donut may contain a practical joke, like mustard instead of jam, which is considered by some to be bad luck. They also dine on marzipan pigs for good luck on New Year’s Eve — which they also call Sylvesterabend.

Greece:

The simplest tradition involves onions. Lots of them. On a string. On their door to encourage growth. They make up for this ritual by baking a vasilopita on New Year’s Day. A coin is hidden in the cake. Whoever finds the coin is said to have a year of good luck. (I hope they use a fork for the cake and don’t bite into a piece).

Ireland:

Photo by Donna Hamlet on Pexels.com

Single women of Ireland place sprigs of mistletoe under their pillows on New Year’s night in the hope that it will bring them better luck and a future husband. (I am on a quest now for mistletoe).

Japan:

Nengajo Cards

Yes, finally food items. Japanese tradition of eating Tosikoshi Noodles or “year-crossing” soba, which can symbolize having a long and fortunate life along with a clean break from the year.

On New Year’s Eve, there is also a tradition in the Buddhist temples. They ring their bells 108 times to welcome Toshigami, the New Year’s God. A nice gesture is sending thank-you cards called nengajo that wish a Happy New Year and give thanks to friends and relatives.

Mexico:

More food, lots of it, too. In the U.S, we (Americans of Mexican ethnicity or Chicanos or Latinos/Latinx) eat up the last of the Christmas tamales as part of a big dinner.

In some parts of Mexico, the dinner celebration also includes Bacalaó which is salted cod. Also followed by eating twelve grapes for twelve wishes (a tradition in Spain), fireworks, and sparkling wine.

Puerto Rico:

More food. Latinx enjoy food and family and celebrations together. Traditional food is served like arroz con gandules, roasted pig, pasteles, coquito, pitorro, rice pudding or tembleque.

If you’ve never had coquito, you’re missing out. This rummy, creamy, coconut drink recipe can be found on LiYun Alvarado’s website (no relation, but friends).

In Puerto Rico, people throw a bucket of water out of their windows to drive away evil spirits. They also sweep the house and yard clean. Brushing out the old to make room for the new sounds right to me.

Russia:

Grab a piece of paper, write down your wishes for 2021, and light the paper on fire. (stick to Post-It size). Once it’s stopped burning, sprinkle the wish-filled ashes into a glass of champagne and drink up after the clock strikes midnight. (Uh, no. I’m not ruining a perfectly good glass of champagne).

Spain:

Photo by Luiz M. Santos on Pexels.com

Now, this is easy and healthy (unless you have diabetes; in that case stick to 8 grapes). Las Doce Uvas de Suerte (the 12 grapes of good luck) are placed in a bowl or cup. When the clock strikes midnight, start downing the grapes, one at a time. You must finish in a minute.

For bonus points: A pair of red underwear can bring you a new year of love, while yellow may bring joy and fortune.

Several Latin American countries do grapes and underwear. I’m making sure my red ones available. I’m thinking of wearing yellow ones on top, too.

So, there you have it. Twelve traditions from around the world.

I’d love to hear about your traditions, especially from countries not listed.

Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy New Year’s Eve whatever you do.

Family, Family time, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday food, Mexican Vegan food

Beginning a New Tradition with Tamales-Vegan Style!

Christmas Stars by J. De La Cruz, flickr.com cc
Christmas Stars by J. De La Cruz, flickr.com cc

Five years after my youngest became a vegan, I now have another vegan son who has a wonderful girlfriend who is also vegan.

I began cooking vegan style for the youngest some time ago. My oldest son, David and his girlfriend, Laura ‘veganize’ all sorts of foods while educating people on their YouTube site titled “Hangry Vegans.” Their videos show their adventures shopping and creating vegan dishes. Recently, they created a Wix site, you guessed it: “Hangry Vegans.”

We made five types of tamales. And, this year I wasn’t the only one making vegan tamales. David and Laura sat at the table and learned from me and his aunt about the ‘how to’s” of making the masa (dough) and filling for tamales without lard or animal products.

They tried to manipulate the butter knife, masa to oja (corn husk) ratio, and fill the tamales without making them into fat burritos. I was impressed they kept at it, smoothing and fixing the ojas, laying on the right amount of chile and ‘cheese.’

A mother is impressed when her daughter cooks, but a Latina mother is doubly surprised when her adult son tackles a medium difficult project. For the trifecta, Laura said she and David would keep up the tradition. Maybe there will be some little ‘tamales’ in their future 🙂 (I’m going to get an OMG from them, but I’m joking!).

They both did well for first timers and now know why we complain of backaches the day after tamale making.

My mother stood by and asked what type of filling we’d use. When the words “Black beans” and vegan ‘cheese’ entered the conversation she gave us the familiar nose wrinkle. This is her polite way of saying “Yuck.”

You know millennials, they video everything. Here are the steps in motion:

Vegan Black Bean Tamales:

Masa/Dough

2 cups of Maseca Tamal corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together in a large bowl and add:
1 1/3 cup of vegetable broth

In another bowl, use
2/3 cup of coconut or vegetable shortening.
Mix until fluffy. Add this to the dry ingredients and stir until batter is smooth.
Knead the dough like bread until it’s smooth and slightly sticky.

You can also buy store-bought masa at a Mexican supermarket. Ask for masa sin preparada (not prepared with lard). To this masa add the vegetable shortening and knead.

Spread a thin to medium layer of masa on the oja/corn husk, leaving 1/4 from the top clear.

Add a tablespoon or more of drained and rinsed cooked black beans, shredded vegan Monterrey style Jack cheese, and diced green chiles or strips of chile. A teaspoon of salsa verde or salsa roja can also be added.

Fold each side of oja to the middle and fold over the top of the oja. Press the open ends of the oja gently together.

Take a deep pot (tamale) which has a steamer bottom or put an overturned foil pie pan with four ventilated holes at the bottom of the pot. Add water until it reaches the rim of the pie pan.

Stack tamales into the pot about 2/3 full and around the edges, leaving a small funnel in the middle. Or, you can basketweave the tamales around the edges, also with a funnel in the middle. Water, when needed, is added in this space.

Wet and wring out a clean cotton kitchen towel. Drape it over the top of the stacked tamales, put a lid on the pot and place on the stove, at medium heat. Add water when necessary.

Set a timer for 90 minutes. Use a potholder to lift the lid and check the tamales. The masa will be cooked solid if it’s done. If the masa is mushy, set the timer for another hour.

Any vegetable filling can be used: lentils and corn, spinach and vegan cheese, peas and carrots, butternut squash are some examples.

For our sweet tamales recipes: Pineapple, Coconut; Cinnamon Raisin; and Strawberry go over to Hangry Vegans website. Check them out, they’re so cute.

I have to say that, I’m a mom.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Books, Family

20 Ways to Celebrate Before Christmas

 

Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com
Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com

We haven’t put up one Christmas bulb or decoration yet, but I am thinking of how to make Christmas more special this year.

When I say special, I mean remembering that “Christ,” is in the word “Christmas.”

The wheels began turning last night when I wandered through department stores looking for Christmas cards that ‘spoke’ to me. And I found them too, at Hallmark.

There are 20 days to Christmas and they’ll blur by if we forget to take the time to slow down and enjoy the hours and days of the holiday season.

This list is just a beginning. Perhaps you can share your ideas in the comments.

How to spend the remaining 20 days to Christmas:

 

1-Carry on a tradition and share. Mine is to make tamales and champurrado.

2-Hug more and not just your spouse or significant other. Smile too.

3-Spend time with your parents or anyone over 70 that has a story to tell you about a Christmas memory.

4-Scent your home with the inviting fragrance of cinnamon, pine, or sugar cookies. I like to stick cloves in oranges.

6-Decorate your home or someone else’s with a living plant. I found this colorful gem at Lowe’s.

 Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

7-Send out Christmas cards with a handwritten inspirational quote.

8-Forgive. Apologize. Try to understand.  

9-Read a Christmas book to your own or someone else’s children. No kids? Read to yourself, aloud. One of my favorites is Olive the Other Reindeer.

10-Wear something ‘Christmasy,’ even if it’s that not so pretty holiday sweater someone gave you. 

11-Buy or make a new holiday ornament for someone else.

12-Share a holiday drink with someone: Peppermint Mocha, mulled wine, champurrado.

13-Sing along to holiday songs, wherever you may be.

14-Try a new holiday food from a different culture: France, Spain, Germany, Italy…

15-Get out in nature. Taste falling snow. If you’re in Southern California, like me, find yourself some shaved ice or a raspada as we call them in Spanish. This year I’ll be in Denver for Christmas where I’m sure I’ll find snow.

16-Bake a holiday sweet that you’ve never baked before and share.

17-Visit a church or place of worship for their holiday message, choir, or play.

18-Say “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” twice as often.

19-Donate coats, sweaters, gloves to those in need. Drop your coins into the Salvation Army kettle. Contribute to Toys for Tots or similar program.

20-Pray and work for peace.

Enjoy your weekend!

Family

A Twist to Traditional Tamales

Tamale Making Time-alvaradofrazier.com
Tamale Making Time-alvaradofrazier.com

Last weeks tamale making party (la tamalada) included nieces, nephews, grandkids, and great grandkids. We made the traditional (Mexican) red chile with pork, green tomatillo sauce with pork, and Anaheim chiles and cheese. We added a couple of twists to the tradition this year.

This is the first time I made my own masa (dough) because I couldn’t find any prepared without lard. Turned out fine. My son is a committed Vegan and we in turn are supportive so we  made a few dozen  lentil with corn tamales and spinach, mushroom and vegan cheese tamales. The latter were incredibly delicious.

Dessert tamales are nothing new, but our family hasn’t made a successful bunch- ever- before this year. A  family friend taught us how to make strawberry tamales. I never thought we’d break tradition, but as I’ve said before we all have to branch out and try new things.

Strawberry Dessert Tamales-alvaradofrazier.com
Strawberry Dessert Tamales-alvaradofrazier.com

Oxnard, California is a coastal town and home to world famous strawberries. For a short (extremely brief) time I helped pick strawberries with my family. It wasn’t as hard as picking walnuts or tomatoes so my mom thought we (her kids) could handle this crop. We played more than picked and that was the end of that endeavor.

So it seemed apropos to make strawberry tamales. They were delicious. Perfect with a cup of champurrado or cafe.

The day after Christmas everyone is usually “tamaled out,” so the rest go into freezer bags to heat up for New Years Day.

The season comes to a close when those freezer bags go into the refrigerator, the tamale pots go back up to the attic, the aprons get washed, and the blender is put away. It is a little melancholy, mostly because the families disperse, the house is much quieter, and we have to wait a whole year to have the next tamalada.