New Year’s, or Año Nuevo, is a worldwide event, but it’s not celebrated the same way in every country. The Argentines have taken influences from all over the world and given their own spin to it. As a born and bred Argentine you won’t let a chance pass by to eat 3 times your bodyweight in meat, and New Year’s Eve is no exception, just so you know we’re going to be talking about a lot of food.
First things first, we’re still in Argentina, so you already know there is going to be asado in the grand majority of cases. The whole family gathers for dinner at grandpa’s house, we’re talking everyone; sons, daughters, children, grandchildren, you name it! Everyone gets together around 9 or 10, welcomed by a friendly kiss on the cheek from the hosting grandparents. It the typical asado experience; the women will venture to the kitchen to make the side dishes as one of the men will take care of all the meat. We’re talking 1 kilogram (2.2lbs) of meat per person, not to mention there will be enough salad and other sides to feed a small family for a week.
In the rare case there is no asado, there are some lovely alternatives that I’ve been told are classics (which can also be served in combination with the asado). One of them is Vitel Thoné; a silverside joint, covered with a fresh creamy sauce with a hint of tuna. Furthermore there is beef and/or chicken rolled with slices of hard-boiled eggs, paprika, cheese and vegetables, because the absence of a barbecue can’t result in the absence of meat. Another international classic is deviled eggs, these hard-boiled vertically cut eggs with topping are an absolute must as a side.
After stuffing yourself from 10 to 12 with meat and wine, it is time to have a toast to set the year off in style. The host will take charge of opening the champagne in one fluid motion, upon which he or she will serve the guests. Cider or a drink called Anana Fizz can also take the place of champagne in this ritual. When the clock strikes 12 everybody has a toast, and Happy New Year wishes are being exchanged. The “sweet table” is being served, which means it’s time to eat more. This time around there will be a wide variety of Pan Dulce, nougat and walnuts dipped in caramel. After eating some, if you still have room in your stomach, it is time to set off the fireworks!
The country counts many immigrants from the south of Europe, which means that you might find some Spanish or Italian traditions in some houses. These might include jumping over a rope or eating 12 grapes, one for every month of the New Year. Once you’ve gotten all of this out of the way, it is time to pay a visit to friends and acquaintances. This can be done at their house or a special place called a quinta (fifth). A quinta is a remotely located chalet, with a yard and usually a pool. The youth might opt for one of the many parties as their parents venture off to meet up with their friends.
This pretty much concludes the night for the elders, who will go to bed around an hour or 3, whereas the children might end up who-knows-where. As parties continue until deep in the night or even in the morning, your best bet is not to stay up for your kids to get home, and just get some well-deserved sleep. Feliz Año Nuevo!
Written by Marcel Hulleman with the help and expertise of Maria Szlafsztein.