new year

No matter where you are from, the New Year signifies a new beginning. Out with the old, in with the new. Wishes for good luck and prosperity and resolutions for health and wealth. Here in the U.S. we celebrate the new year with fireworks, ball drops, and noise (we ran outside to bang our pots and pans at midnight when I was a child.) In other cultures, while the wishes and hopes are the same, they usher in the new year in quite different ways.

We asked Montclair residents, originally from other countries, how they will ring in 2015:

Twelve grapes (Photo: Wikipedia)
Twelve grapes (Photo: Wikipedia)

Carla Gutierrez, originally from Peru, celebrates with her family by eating twelve grapes (one each for a full month of good luck) at midnight. And for extra protection for good luck in the new year, one should wear yellow underwear!

Cotechino with lentils and polenta. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Cotechino with lentils and polenta. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Debora Galassi, originally from Padua, Italy, says the custom of eating grapes is also followed and that lentils are a must on the New Year’s table.

Sara Villa, also originally from Italy, says you should wear something red and new for good luck on New Year’s Eve. And in a literal “out with the old, in with the new” tradition, the people of Naples, throw old furniture out of their windows. “It’s really weird to see all if the items collected at the bottom of buildings the next morning!” says Sara.

My Vasilopita from New Year's Day 2013.
My Vasilopita from New Year’s Day 2013.

In my home, we enjoy the Greek tradition of eating Vasilopita, or St. Basil’s Pie, on New Year’s Day. The Greek cake contains a hidden coin which gives good luck to the receiver. We also eat my mom’s Hoppin’ John recipe for prosperity in the new year.

Anna Kondic, originally from Bulgaria, makes a pie that has pieces of paper with different notes of luck in it and a coin (like the Greek Vasilopita cake) as the big prize bringing the recipient good luck all year.

Lisa Sian Davies, originally from Wales and married to an Englishman, says it’s customary to go first footing in Northern England. “Just before midnight a person, usually a dark haired male, (females and fair men are bad luck!) are the first to enter to home for good luck. People normally take coal, alcohol and silver with them.”


Kristin Wald, whose parents are German, says a rum and mulled wine drink and setup called Feuerzangenbowle and herringsalat (a herring salad, which you can get at Watchung Deli) are tradition on New Year’s in German households. Feuerzangenbowle is prepared in a bowl, similar to a fondue set. The bowl is filled with heated dry red wine spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise and orange peel, similar to mulled wine.


How do you ring in the new year? Share your family’s traditions with us in comments.



2 replies on “Multicultural Montclair Shares its New Year’s Traditions”

  1. I thought it was universal to drink a lot of Mad Dog and to eat at White Castle and to dream of a great new year. Doing anything else is extraneous.

  2. Russians have New Year’s trees. Which go back to Soviet times, when the authorities outlawed Christmas (no religious holidays!), but ported many of the traditions and symbols over to New Year’s in secular form. Santa Claus became “Grandfather Frost.”

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