New Year’s Eve ……. normally this eve would bring about lots of parties and celebrations but the start of 2021 looks much more subdued. As expected, cities have cancelled or modified their plans due to the pandemic. Although tradition has been silenced this year, one thing that will never change is the ticking of time and the arrival of a New Year at midnight on December 31st.
When I was growing up, I recall one of the Christmas tree ornaments my mother had was a mushroom with a white spotted red cap. At that time, I remember thinking it seemed unusual as a Christmas tree ornament but never really questioned it. Many years later, through my interest in food history, I understand the connection.
In Germany and other parts of Central and Eastern Europe this iconic mushroom (Amanita muscaria) has long been considered a symbol of good luck and is intertwined with the Yuletide Season.
‘The Mushroom’ of Christmas and the New Year is frequently found growing underneath pine trees because the roots of this specific mushroom can only grow in the root zones of certain trees. There is some speculation that the red & white of Christmas and the use of pine trees may be linked to these humble mushrooms.
Even though the Amanita muscaria mushroom is toxic and should never be eaten it is still symbolizes the hope for good fortune in the coming year. The tradition of gifting mushroom imagery has stuck around, especially for those of German or Austrian descent who still exchange the pretty red & white mushrooms at Christmas time (often in the form of cards or other trinkets). Its not hard to understand why ‘meringue’ mushrooms are a popular decoration for the ‘Yule Log’ cakes.
After all these years, I understand the meaning of my mothers little mushroom ornament. New Year’s of 2020 seems like a good time to make a mushroom finger food in hopes of having the good fortune of Covid 19 coming to an end so we can all resume ‘normal’ life in 2021.