The Japanese NYE Tradition Of Eating Soba Noodles At Midnight

Pop the champagne because it's finally the holiday season and New Year's Eve parties are right around the corner. Here in the U.S., typical celebrations on the last night of the year involve fireworks, watching the ball drop in New York City's Times Square, midnight kisses, and lots and lots of sparkles. But venture beyond American borders and you may be surprised at the wide variety of traditions ingrained in New Year's Eves around the globe.

While we like to adorn ourselves in glittery outfits and accessories here in America, people dress in polka dots in the Philippines because the round shape symbolizes prosperity, according to Tagalong Lang. They even carry around round coins in the hopes of attracting wealth in the new year! And be careful opening your front door on New Year's Eve in Denmark because it's customary to break dishes on loved ones' doorsteps for good luck. In fact, the more wreckage you end up with, the more loved you are (via Good Housekeeping).

As long as your plates are intact, different countries also believe in eating various foods to usher in a happy new year. According to the Times Square Chronicles, Armenians bake celebratory bread, Austrians dine on suckling pigs, and the French down stacks of crepes before midnight (that sounds like a party to us). And in Japan, people feast on one food in particular to embrace the new year.

Long noodles for a long life

According to CNN, Japanese New Year's Eves generally include eating buckwheat soba noodles, also called toshikoshi soba. So what is this slurpable dish? Soba noodles are made mostly from buckwheat flour and are usually eaten cold with a dipping sauce called tsuyu, or hot in a soup, notes The Spruce Eats. They're an ancient Japanese food dating all the way back to the Middle Ages and are rooted in Zen Buddhist traditions, according to 50 Best Stories. "Soba is a powerful, high-vibration food," Japanese soba restaurant owner Ariko Ianoka told 50 Best Stories. "Before going into deep meditations and long fasts, Zen Buddhist monks used to eat buckwheat flour and water mixed into a ball."

And on New Year's Eve in Japan, eating soba noodles has layers of symbolism mixed in. Savor Japan explains that the strong buckwheat plant indicates resiliency and the noodles' thinness means they can be easily bitten, illustrating a clean break from the previous year's challenges. Tokyo Weekender notes that soba noodles are also preferred over other types, like udon, because their long length symbolizes a long life. The Japanese aren't picky about how these noodles are eaten on New Year's, whether hot or cold,. But to add a little pizazz (it is a holiday, after all), Just One Cookbook recommends finishing your soba dish off with a raw egg, fish cakes, or tempura.