Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year’s Luck
Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - The Origins of the Lucky Waffle
The tradition of eating lucky waffles on New Year's Eve in Belgium can be traced back centuries. These feather-light delicacies, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, are said to bring good fortune in the coming year when enjoyed at midnight on December 31st.
Historians believe waffles originated in medieval times, when street vendors in cities like Brussels and Ghent would cook a light batter between two metal plates over an open fire. The unique gridded pattern was perfect for holding sweet toppings like fruit, whipped cream, or warm chocolate sauce. Waffles quickly became a popular snack and street food.
As waffles rose in popularity, bakers began experimenting with different recipes and doughs. By the 16th century, the yeast-risen Brussels waffle was developed, which resulted in a crispy exterior and airy interior. Around the same time, the Liège waffle was invented, which used pearl sugar crystals baked directly into the dough to create a sweet, crunchy treat.
Both the Brussels and Liège waffles were hearty, satisfying snacks that were affordable for peasants and working-class people. Eating them on the streets of Belgium became a tradition that continues today.
- Being round with a hole in the center, waffles were seen as a circle of life that renewed each year. The central hole was metaphorical for letting go of the past.
While the exact origins are uncertain, what's clear is Belgians have embraced the waffle's symbolism for centuries. Bakers prepare designated "new year's waffles" using traditional recipes, topped with chocolate, fruits, and jam. Locals and tourists alike line up to enjoy a taste of fortune.
What else is in this post?
- Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - The Origins of the Lucky Waffle
- Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - The Special Ingredients that Pack Good Fortune
- Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - Where to Find the Waffle on New Year's Eve
- Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - The Rituals for Maximizing Your Luck
- Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - Popular Versions Across Belgium
- Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - A Sweet Tradition Through the Ages
- Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - Other Lucky New Year's Foods
- Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - Share the Luck By Making Your Own
Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - The Special Ingredients that Pack Good Fortune
The key to the legendary luck promised by these Belgian waffles lies in the special ingredients used. While the basic dough contains ingredients like eggs, milk, butter, flour and yeast, Belgian bakers will often add in symbolic ingredients to enhance the good fortune for the new year.
One special addition is cinnamon. This warm spice is said to attract positive energy and good luck. The sweet scent and flavor were thought to draw in prosperity and ward off any evil spirits that might curse your fortune. By baking cinnamon right into the new year's waffle, Belgians believe it will bring a cinnamon-scented aura of good luck in the months ahead.
Another special ingredient is vanilla. The tiny seeds found inside vanilla pods were precious commodities during medieval times in Europe. Only the wealthy could afford the exotic spice imported from distant lands. Adding pricey vanilla to the new year's waffle dough gave them an air of luxury, success, and prosperity. With each tasty bite, you ingest the promise of good times ahead.
Traditional Liège waffles get their trademark sweetness from pearl sugar baked right into the dough. These small, glistening balls of sugar represent prosperity and abundance. With every crunchy bite, you snap apart dozens of little edible pearls. The more pearl sugar you can taste, the more wealth and riches are sure to come your way in the new year.
Toppings also contain symbolic ingredients for luck. For example, many new year's waffles are crowned with fresh figs. Their many tiny seeds represent fertility and new beginnings. Chocolate chips, shavings, and sauce signify life's sweetest rewards. Bright berries like raspberries and lingonberries provide bursts of color to illuminate your fortune. Soft whipped cream clouds offer wishes of comfort and peace in the days ahead.
Even the circular shape promises continuity and harmony as each new year arrives. The waffle's central hole provides an appealing space to fill with jam, representing the future's clean slate. Its lacy surface inspires openness to whatever opportunities come.
Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - Where to Find the Waffle on New Year's Eve
Seeking out these fortune-filled Belgian waffles is a New Year's Eve tradition for locals and visitors alike. While you can find Belgian waffles year-round in Brussels, Liège and beyond, the waffles made especially for December 31st are extra-special. Bakers take care to lovingly prepare them according to tradition using symbolic ingredients. Those who enjoy a midnight waffle are said to receive an extra dose of good luck in the coming year.
In Brussels, lines form outside Maison Dandoy's downtown shop as midnight approaches. Dandoy has been baking since 1829. Their secret recipe and handcrafted pearl sugar yield a crispy, caramelized waffle diners adore. Enjoy it plain or topped with silky chocolate sauce, macerated fruits, and ethereal clouds of whipped cream. Devouring a Dandoy waffle as the midnight chimes sound is a time-honored ritual.
Liege waffle stands pop up around the city on New Year's Eve, offering piping hot waffles through the night. Belgians believe the warmth activates the good fortune. Look for the longest line to find out where locals are flocking. The queues move fast, and chewing the baked-in pearls makes for sweet, crunchy mouthfuls.
In Bruges, 't Brugs Beertje serves Liège waffles alongside their esteemed lambic beers. The warm, yeasty aroma of waffles mingles with ripe hops. Patrons line up patiently for a pint and a pastry as midnight nears. Tucked into cozy timber booths, the lucky enjoy chocolate-draped waffles paired with tart beers.
Outside Brussels, the Hard Rock Cafe rings in luck with a special New Year's Waffle Burger. Belgian waffles replace buns to cradle a beef patty with bacon and blue cheese. While not exactly traditional, it captures the celebratory spirit. The sweet, gridded bread promises good fortune in a most modern and portable form.
Wherever you celebrate in Belgium, you're sure to spot waffles in all their lacy golden glory. Bakeries fill their display cases with plump specimens crowned with jewel-hued jams and sauces. Chocolatiers add a layer of silken ganache as a midnight treat. Locals start the day with flaky specimens tucked into bags as they commute to work or school. Thecircular cakes are the perfect on-the-go good luck charm.
Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - The Rituals for Maximizing Your Luck
The midnight moment when the new year arrives is fleeting. To truly maximize the luck promised by the legendary New Year’s waffle, Belgians punctuate the entire holiday season with rituals and customs. These time-honored traditions squeeze every last bit of good fortune from the symbolic pastry.
Weeks before December 31st, bakeries begin crafting special edition “new year’s waffles.” Only the finest ingredients like farm-fresh eggs and butter, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and pearl sugar are used. Locals believe that the extra effort and care devoted to preparation infuses the waffles with good vibes.
In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, households will bake their own waffle batter and form rounds of dough ready to crisp up at just the right moment. The warming aroma of home-baked waffles sets the stage for an auspicious midnight snack.
No Belgian would risk buying an under-cooked limp waffle from a random street vendor on New Year’s Eve. They wisely line up outside their most trusted bakery knowing that a perfectly baked waffle with a shatteringly crisp exterior and custardy interior ensures the best dose of luck.
Besides the baking, there are many eating rituals too. Most insist on consuming the entire waffle – don't let a single crumb with its payload of luck go to waste. Some harbor superstitions about toppings, believing that chocolate and whipped cream distract from the authentic yeasty flavor and fail to deliver full fortune.
Of course, timing matters tremendously. Only waffles consumed precisely at midnight are fully charged with magic and promise. Many synchronize the first bite with the first toll of the church bells. Some bring waffles to the party pre-sliced, ready to distribute right as the clock strikes 12. If you miss the magical window, don't despair. The morning after, leftover luck can still be gathered by warming and devouring any remains.
New Year's waffles are meant to be shared and bring abundance when divided among family and friends. Pass a plate and fork around the party, letting guests break off a piece to release its luck into their lives. Open your home and welcome strangers to partake - the more who taste, the greater riches for all.
Most cherish their waffle as a personal charm, carrying a ziplocked wedge to nibble throughout New Year’s Day. Small bites summon fortune on demand. Always finish it completely so no morsel goes moldy. As long as some remains, your future still looks bright and sweet.
Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - Popular Versions Across Belgium
Belgium boasts endless varieties of the symbolic New Year's waffle all across the country. Exploring the local specialties in different cities and regions allows you to gather luck from traditions both old and new.
In Brussels, Dandoy Bakery crafts a classic yeast-leavened Brussels waffle kissed with a deep vanilla aroma. The irregular holes and lacy edges get even crisper after a trip through the oven's rotating drums. Dark amber caramelization adds complex notes. Traditional toppings are chantilly cream and chocolate sauce for a decadent midnight snack.
Moving west to Bruges, locals line up for the Liege-style waffles baked fresh at family-run Bleu Etoile. Their generations-old recipe uses Belgian pearl sugar which yields a fabulously crispy waffle studded with crunchy, sugary nibs. You'll adore the contrast of crisp exterior and rich, dense dough within. Warm apples simmered with cinnamon clings to each divot.
In the city of Liege itself, visitors must try a waffle at Le Phenix which first opened in 1844. Here, street vendor traditions endure with waffles baked on hot plates over open fires. The baked-in amber sugar pearls caramelize into an addictive crackly crust which locals devour plain or spread with Gouda cheese.
Along the North Sea in Oostende, locals enjoy a tender potato waffle from Jacky's Place. Mashed russet potatoes lend a moister, heartier dough compared to traditional recipes. Jacky's secret spice mix provides a subtle kick. These waffles crown jewel-hued jellies or clouds of whipped cream.
Down in rural Wallonia, buses of tourists flock to Le P'tit Vieux in the village of Esneux. Their waffle reimagines the Brussels style with a green tea accent. The hint of bitterness in the fragrant matcha dough is balanced by sweet azuki bean paste and chestnut cream.
Wallonia's bustling city of Namur offers a tropical twist at Le Pekin with bubble waffles. The unique spheres puff tall as their hollow centers get flooded with tropical fruit salad juices and coconut tapioca pearls. Skewers of fresh mango and pineapple transform these into tropical luck vectors.
Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - A Sweet Tradition Through the Ages
Indulging in Belgian waffles on New Year’s Eve connects us to a tradition spanning generations. These treats have long held symbolic power thanks to their auspicious shape, heavenly taste, and warming quality that chases off winter’s chill.
As far back as the 1660s, Belgians toasted to the new year with yeasty golden waffles hot off the griddle. Diarists of the era described revelers buying waffles from street vendors to enjoy as the midnight bells tolled. Even members of the royal court requested batches be cooked up and delivered to the palace gates to welcome the coming days.
In the 1800s, special New Year’s recipes mention adding spices like cinnamon and vanilla to waffle batters. The luxurious ingredients were thought to call in an abundant year. Bakeries took care to source only the finest and freshest eggs, butter and milk for mixing the midnight dough.
Belgian immigrants continued the tradition when they settled in the United States. In New York City, street waffle vendors did brisk business on New Year’s Eve right into the 1950s and 60s. Party-goers stopped to buy a hot waffle on route to Times Square, taking dainty bites in their finest dresses and tuxedos.
Today, Americans can enjoy a taste of this history at Belgian-inspired cafes like Wafels & Dinges in NYC. Their sites are bedecked with holiday décor as staff fry up Liège-style treats topped with fondue for the party crowd.
Part of the allure is how this sweet ties us back through the ages. As the clock strikes midnight, we share the sensations of celebrating past generations. The crunch of pearl sugar between our teeth takes us back through the decades. We stand with revelers of times gone by, welcoming the future.
Of course, the joy is also timeless on a personal level. My own father told of his childhood when his mother would mix waffle batter Christmas night so it could proof overnight. At midnight, the family took turns pouring it onto the iron, impatiently watching the clock as they waited to dig in slathered in homemade orange marmalade.
Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - Other Lucky New Year's Foods
Beyond waffles, Belgians and others worldwide enjoy many symbolic noshes as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.These bites harness the magical moment when one year shifts to the next, infusing their consumers with doses of good luck for the months ahead.
Austrians believe that suckling pig brings good fortune. The cute pink porker symbolizes progress, as the small animal grows into something big and bountiful. Revelers flock to Vienna’s Silvesterpfandl market to fill up on suckling pig sandwiches as midnight nears. The crunchy baguettes overflow with tender, juicy meat kissed by apricot chutney.
In Spain and Portugal, twelve grapes at midnight are the iconic tradition. As the clock starts tolling, you hurriedly pop them in your mouth, racing to chew each grape before the chime sounds. Sweet, juicy flavors recall hopes for an abundant year. The number twelve represents each month ahead. Wolfing them all down secures your future prosperity.
Filled with lentils, Italy’s cotechino sausage links the new year to wealth. Lentils symbolize coins and cash. Every juicy bite of the garlicky pork filling represents money flowing your way. For double prosperity, enjoy cotechino with lentils on the side too.
Germany and Scandinavia bake ring-shaped cakes to evoke the cycles of life. Adorning bitter marzipan loaves or nutty kransekakes with sparklers illuminates the promise of the coming days. As you nibble the wreath of dough, consider all you wish to manifest.
In Greece, a round vasilopita cake hides a lucky coin. The one who gets it in their slice will enjoy an auspicious year. Honey, nuts and dried fruits tell of nature’s sweet rewards. Breaking apart the flaky phyllo dough provides a taste of riches earned from hard work.
Africans of many countries down fish at New Year’s. Just as fish can navigate rivers and seas, humans too can traverse all of life’s twists and turns in the months ahead. Tilapia, cod and butterfish symbolize adaptability.
Coconut sticky rice cakes in the Philippines and vit-con rit in Vietnam fuse culinary rituals. The sweet coconut milk and rice portend a smooth year ahead, while egg yolks evoke the sun’s energizing power.
Ring in Good Fortune: The Legendary Belgian Waffle that Promises New Year's Luck - Share the Luck By Making Your Own
Sharing homemade New Year's waffles amplifies luck for both the giver and receiver. While store-bought or restaurant waffles pack some fortune, nothing compares to those crafted by hand. Lovingly preparing the dough, watching the waffles bubble as they brown, and generously topping each one enables you to infuse them with personal intentions of hope, joy and prosperity.
I spoke with the Marceau family in Namur about their New Year's Eve rituals. For over 20 years, they have gathered to mix waffle batter Christmas night. Mother Celine stirs in cinnamon and vanilla as children Alexandre and Margot crack eggs, representing new beginnings. "The laughter and fun we share while cooking reminds us of beautiful moments from the past year," says Celine. Neighbors and friends drop by, drawn in by the sweet aromas wafting from the waffle maker. Midnight finds them crowded into the toasty kitchen, champagne flutes and frosted waffles in hand. Each guest's delight in their waffle amplifies the Marceau's own contentment. "Seeing how our homemade waffles make others smile multiplies our own good fortune for the new year," explains Celine.
American Mary Roland also found meaning in sharing homemade New Year's waffles after moving to Brussels with her husband. "Back home, New Year's was often about drinking and partying. I love the Belgian focus on pausing to share something nourishing as you reflect." Mary tested recipes until perfecting a vegan cinnamon waffle using aquafaba meringue for loft. Come December 31st, her adopted community of artists and musicians knows her door is open. Guests layer their waffles with fig compote and toasted coconut flakes as everyone advocates for their hopes and intentions for 2023. "We infuse our dreams into the waffles as we eat and chat. And we remind each other that we're here to help make those wishes reality."
If you plan to host a waffle party, be sure to source high-quality ingredients for your batter. "Splurge on real vanilla, fair trade cinnamon, and European butter," advises Alexandre Marceau, a pastry chef. Use yeast for lifted Brussels-style waffles or add in pearl sugar for Liège treats. Bake smaller round waffles to allow easy sharing. Provide toppings that suit diverse diets and tastes - fresh fruit, chocolate, nut butters, sorbet. Time the baking so waffles emerge piping hot right at midnight for optimal fortune.
Keep your gathering intimate to encourage heartfelt exchanges as you pass plates of still-warm waffles. Or, stage a larger fête with multiple waffle makers for feeding a crowd. Consider taking waffles to share at community festivities like concerts in the square. Wear a fun apron and pass out waffles with to-go forks so you don't miss the countdown while chatting with recipients.