The celebration of the New Year comes in many different forms. Some people love music, dancing, silly hats and noisemakers.
Others love to celebrate with food.
For every type of celebration and family tradition comes interesting new foods.
Why do we eat what we eat to celebrate the coming year?
Which foods are thought to bring prosperity, happiness or health?
What food does your culture consider must-haves at New Year’s?
Are foods lucky?
New Year’s “Luckiest” Foods
People all over the globe believe that eating certain foods on December 31 or January 1 will improve their luck, happiness or wealth in the New Year. Here are a few different foods and why we believe they bring good things to our New Year.
Collard Greens – green leaves symbolize money and prosperity in the New Year in the South. In other parts of the world greens are enjoyed in other forms, such as kale and sauerkraut, but still mean good fortune in the form of wealth. More greens equals more wealth.
Black-eyed Peas – their shapes are reminiscent of coins and thought to bring prosperity in the New Year. It’s believed you are inviting good fortune by serving this dish. Other types of peas, lentils and beans are eaten throughout the world with the same meaning. Often consumed in combination with pork for more luck.
In the South, black eyed peas and collard greens are a staple for the New Year’s menu, according to reports began during the Civil War when those foods were left by Union soldiers as ‘animal feed’. Southerners ate these foods in a celebration of getting through hard times and overcoming and continue to enjoy them now. Add cornbread that symbolizes gold and you will have a meal full of happiness and wealth!
Hoppin’ John is black-eyed peas made with rice often made in the South, especially in the Carolinas, and represents prosperity.
Fish – most believe fish is lucky since it can be easily preserved in areas where other meats are in short supply. Also, due to the Catholic Church’s stand against red meat on holidays, many across the world choose to eat fish for feasting. Fish scales are also thought to be lucky symbolizing coins for wealth.
Grapes – In Spain and Mexico people eat grapes, one for each stroke of the clock at midnight. Originally a way to use surplus grapes,many now eat a grape for each month of the year. If one of the grapes are sour, it is thought that the corresponding month will be as well.
Grains — especially noodles, the long strands stand for long life.
Pork – often thought to bring a rich New Year due to the supposed high fat content; you will be rich in happiness when you serve pork in any form. Another theory is that pork brings progress in a similar way as the pig who roots around to get what he wants.
Ring Cake (or other circle shaped foods) — because they represent coming full circle in your life. In many cultures, treats are baked into the cake, including coins. If you find a treasure, you will be lucky in the New Year.
Do you include any of these foods into your New Year’s menu?
Foods Considered “Unlucky” for New Year’s
As one might guess, since there are lucky foods, there are also unlucky foods.
Not surprisingly, the unluckiness of these foods and a personal decision to include them on the menu or not doesn’t seem to be as widespread a practice and doesn’t quite make it into our mainstream media as much as the foods thought to bring us fortune.
Foods that could be unfortunate if eaten on New Year’s are foods that might lead to our moving backwards instead of forwards. Foods such as lobster and chicken are thought to be unlucky because of the fact that these two creatures physically move themselves backwards when they move leading to a potential for setbacks. Any animal that is winged could fly away causing strife for you in the coming year.
Another interesting food-related custom found in some countries is the notion that you should leave some food uneaten on your plate this New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day. Why? Because it could be a symbol of leaving some nourishment in the pantry for the coming year.
Do you have any interesting food traditions that you and your family celebrate on New Year’s? I would love to hear about your family favorites.
Here’s to good health and happiness (OK good fortune too!) in the New Year — however you celebrate its arrival with food!