As this is the last column of 2022, with the new year a few days away, I thought it would be appropriate to write about a way to celebrate the coast going into 2023 — and it might even bring you good luck. Growing up, my grandparents used to eat pickled herring on New Year’s Eve — a tangy, slippery snack that did not appeal to me at all as a child. I knew it had something to do with bringing good fortune for the coming year, but it wasn’t until growing up and moving to Maine where I became quite enchanted by all things seafood that I learned more about this fishy tradition. Now, it is one that I partake in each year in some way.

My family is not Scandinavian, the homeland of pickled herring, but it turns out that eating fish on New Year’s Eve is not limited to one geography. The Japanese often eat whole fish, the head and tail symbolizing the end of one year and the beginning of the next. In Germany, people put fish scales in their wallet to symbolize coins. Also, because fish are prolific reproducers, they are symbols of abundance with their copious amounts of eggs. And the fact that fish swim forward is taken, worldwide, as a sign of progress from old to new. Some people stay away from crab and lobsters, which walk sideways.

Herring Disaster

Dustin Young unloads a barrel of alewives (river herring) during a harvest on May 16, 2021, in Franklin. Pickled herring is one of many seafoods traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve. Robert F. Bukaty / AP file photo

I have come to appreciate pickled herring but also tend to incorporate other types of fish into my New Year’s celebration. In Maine, we have an abundance of options, even excluding the aforementioned sideways shuffling crustaceans. There are many fresh options that I partake of throughout the year. But New Year’s is an excuse to try different preparations of fish like those that are preserved in a variety of ways. For Christmas this year, I got a cookbook celebrating the myriad ways to prepare tinned fish, one of my favorite categories of seafood. “The Tinned Fish Cookbook” by Bart Van Olphen includes recipes for tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring and anchovies, all of which are native to Maine, with the exception of anchovies. There are simple tuna noodle dishes along with more complicated ones like mackerel tarte tatin. There’s also a great introduction about the different techniques of fish preservation and how to make sustainable choices.

I recently discovered Gulf of Maine Conservas, a company based in Rye, New Hampshire, that tins Gulf of Maine tuna, mackerel and also farm-raised eel. Their products are delicious and can be found at a variety of seafood and health food stores around. Look for the geometric symbol of two opposite pointing triangles that look like a teal fish head and orange fish tail. There are some tasty-looking recipes on their website,, for those not sure where to start with local tinned fish options.

Whatever you choose, there are many ways to incorporate fish into your New Year’s celebration. It is a nice way to honor the abundance of good Maine seafood available both fresh and tinned.

Comments are not available on this story.