New Year in Hungary has always been accompanied by tons of rituals and superstitions. Although most of them are long forgotten or just overseen, meal “rules” are still pretty much respected in Hungarian households. Here are some of the typical dishes, and some that you must avoid.
Superstitious thinking has it that what we eat on these days will have an impact on our following year. As a result, contrary to Christmas, fish meals are ‘prohibited,’ as fish ‘swim away with fortune.’ Likewise, chicken is said to scratch away luck and success and turkey brings poison to the house. Roasted pork, on the other hand, is a perfect choice as pigs are associated with progress and luck and they dig fortune from the soil.
Consuming grains such as beans or lentils can also bring good luck, as they will bring money to the home. The signature meal is definitely lentil soup or stew. As is the case with all household recipes, the number of varieties is countless and every family has its own way of preparing the dish, with many adding smoked meat or sausage. Here is our way:
Desserts need to follow the same line of thinking. Back in the olden days, poppy (and peas, beans, and apples too) meant prosperity, abundance, and wisdom. Therefore, poppy seed bread pudding (mákos guba), probably one of the oldest Hungarian desserts, could be a good way to go. While recipes vary from house to house, our version is a simpler (but for sure a tasty) one:
In addition, people usually eat strudels as well, with a lot of filling, as the superstition says that the more filling brings more happiness in the coming months. With our variant, a pumpkin-poppy seed version, you definitely won’t make a mistake:
Let’s not overlook the practical reasons as well when picking the dishes for New Year’s Eve (in Hungarian, ‘Szilveszter’) and the following day(s). Although frankfurters are popular all year long, they are even more so on New Year’s Eve. A gourmet jury has recently tasted and chosen the best commercial and widely available ones in Hungary:
Also, one must not forget about curing a hangover, a regular visitor of Hungarians on January 1, (although this year’s would probably be a milder one due to the restrictions). In any case, hot, sour, and thick ‘korhely’ (soak) soup is a popular pick for that “next day” although due to its heaviness, it is not recommended for breakfast. The soup’s essence is (a lot of) sauerkraut, made with sausage or bacon, potentially with sour cream on top. It even derives its name from the fact that due to its sour taste, it soothes the stomach after the day before’s fun and feasting.
featured photo: Péter Csákvári/Hungary Today