In many countries, particularly those with extensive and in-depth food traditions, celebrating the New Year involves more than festive cocktails and finger-foods at midnight. The arrival of the New Year means munching on the specific foods that tradition tells you will bring you luck, love, and prosperity over the course of the rest of the year. There are a number of foods that will bring you luck in the New Year and eating them will start the year right. I don't know about you, but most years, I could use all the spare good luck I can get. And bonus if it comes from a tasty bite.
Spain, Italy, Cuba, Japan, and other countries has a tradition of eating foods that symbolize luck and prosperity in the New Year. These food traditions have also made their way to the United States, as families moved from elsewhere and resettled all across the country. Midwest Living noted that German, Polish, and Scandinavian food traditions are popular in much of the Midwest, because many families can trace their heritage to those countries. Cook up a full-day's worth of feasts, plus snacks of course, for a New Year's Day to remember — and a whole year full of luck, love, and prosperity.
Those of German and Polish descent may well be cooking up a big batch of sauerkraut for New Year's Day. Sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage and, according to Epicurious, the tradition goes that the bigger the pile of greens eaten, the larger the eater's fortune will be in the coming year.
In Spain and Portugal, grapes are the good luck, New Year's food of choice. According to Bon Appetit, the tradition is to eat 12 grapes at midnight as the clock sounds 12 times to symbolize the 12 months of the New Year.
3. A Whole Fish
Eating fish brings luck in parts of North America, Asia, and Europe, according to Good Housekeeping. Fish swim forwards, which symbolizes progress, and in large groups called schools, which stands for a year of plenty.
Many cultures eat pork to celebrate the New Year. Epicurious noted that Cubans, Italians, Germans, Spaniards, Hungarians, and more all see pork as a symbol for progress — because pigs, like fish, move forward — as well as wealth, due to its fat content.
5. Black-Eyed Peas
According to Serious Eats, the dried black-eyed peas that are more readily-available this time of year have two specific properties that may indicate why they're linked to New Year's luck, especially in the American South: they get much bigger when cooked and germinate when planted, both of which point to better days ahead.
Long noodles, like Japanese soba, are popular throughout Asia. According to Woman's Day, the length of noodles symbolize long life and prosperity. Fill a bowl and slurp up.
7. Collard Greens
Collard greens are popular in the American South (among other places) and are eaten to celebrate the New Year because, according to Epicurious, their green color symbolizes good fortune, just like cabbage and kale (which is eaten in Denmark).
Doughnuts are eaten for luck in Europe, where they're especially popular in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and the Netherlands, according to Epicurious. Additionally, Bon Appetit noted that a doughnut's round shape symbolize the circular nature of the calendar year. I don't know about you, but I'll happily use this as justification for eating doughnuts.
Pomegranates are eaten in Turkey and other countries along the Mediterranean because they stand for abundance and represent fertility, according to Good Housekeeping. But the Greeks have a different use for the fruit. Bon Appetit noted that, in Greece, they smash a pomegranate at midnight in front of a door — the more seeds that show, the more luck for the year.
10. Shrimp Or Prawns
According to Well + Good, in ancient Japanese tradition, prawns represent longevity due to the length of their tail. Though they're a popular New Year's Eve appetizer, maybe consider holding off until New Year's Day this year.
Cornbread is a New Year's tradition in the American South. According to Woman's Day, cornbread's luck stems from its golden hue and added corn kernels represent nuggets of gold. Bonus: it's a great "warm-you-up" side dish for that first cold January night.
12. Hoppin' John And Skippin' Jenny
A New Year's staple in the Carolinas and popular throughout the south, hoppin' john is a dish that combines rice with black-eyed peas, onion, and pork (usually bacon, fatback, or ham hock). According to Southern Living, eating skippin' jenny, aka the leftovers, the next day represents frugality and so improves your chances of a lucky year.
Italians eat lentils all year long. But according to Serious Eats, Italians, Brazilians, Czechs, Hungarians, and more all eat lentils to celebrate the arrival of a new year. Lentils resemble Roman coins, so eating them represents wealth and prosperity all year.
14. Round-Shaped Fruits
Similar to the eating of grapes, in the Philippines, eating 13 pieces of a round fruit signify sweetness and wealth in the new year, according to Woman's Day, so eat up.
15. Pickled Herring
According to Woman's Day eating pickled herring at midnight stands for hopes of prosperity and good fortune in the new year. Additionally, the color (silver) signifies money, while Serious Eats noted that the pickling means that there was more than enough in the catch — a good sign for rest of the year.
I don't need any special occasions or good excuses to justify eating cake, but according to Bon Appetit, the Greeks bake a coin into a lemon cake (called vasilopita) for New Year's Day. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake gets a year full of luck and fortune. Cake and good fortune? Happy New Year to you.