by Kimberly Blackford
When it comes to the New Year, traditions vary all around the globe and involve everything from babies to fireworks. While the superstitions vary from region to region, food is definitely an important part of celebrating the New Year for everyone of all ages. Certain foods are believed to be lucky and can bring good fortune to those who consume it on the first of the year.
Beans & Peas
All types of legumes, including peas, lentils and beans, are considered lucky to eat on New Years. They symbolize money, more specifically coins, thanks to their small coin-like appearance. Lentils are often paired with pork not only for taste, but also for extra luck. It is highly popular in Italy to eat sausage and green lentils after midnight for prosperity. Brazilians enjoy lentil soup and rice for their first meal of the New Year. Sweet black beans, also known as “kuromame,” are a part of some symbolic dishes that the Japanese eat during the first three days of the New Year. Americans, especially in the Southern states, consume black-eye peas, often in a popular dish called “hoppin’ John” that consists of pork, beans and greens for extra prosperity.
Economic fortune is believed to come to those who consume cooked greens for the New Year. Collards, cabbage, chard and kale have pretty green leaves with the appearance of folded money. Stewed kale with some cinnamon and sugar is a tasty dish that the Danish enjoy for good luck. Cabbage in the form of sauerkraut has always been a favorite in the German tradition. In addition to its lucky appearance, cooked greens are rich in minerals and vitamins.
Noodles & Grains
Quinoa, barley and rice as well as other grains and noodles symbolize abundance and long life. Many Asian cultures eat the long noodles whole on New Year’s Day. The only catch is that the noodle cannot break before it is all in your mouth. Other cultures enjoy a creamy risotto for a lucky meal on New Year’s Day. Whether you want to make sure the next year will be abundant or just want a good source of fiber, noodles are the way to go for a New Year’s meal.
Many kinds of fruit are considered symbolic throughout the entire year. Pomegranates have long been associated with fertility, prosperity and abundance, especially in Mediterranean countries like Turkey. The Spanish, as well as Mexicans, Peruvians, Venezuelans and Cubans, take part in a grape eating ceremony when the clock strikes midnight. For some, they want to have eaten all twelve grapes before the last stroke of midnight. Each grape represents the upcoming twelve months on the New Year. If a certain grape seems sour, then the corresponding month may prove to be a bit difficult. Some cultures eat a thirteenth grape for extra luck. Fruit is a great way to go for a healthy sweet treat as well as prosperity.
Many people believe that pigs signify progress since it pushes itself forward by getting stable footing in the ground before moving. Italians believe that the pig’s rich fat content symbolizes prosperity and wealth. Cultures in Spain, Portugal, Austria, Hungary and Cuba usually serve roast suckling pig for New Year’s feasts. The Germans are known for their roast pork and sausages, while the Swedish enjoy pig’s feet. Pork provides a tasty treat that goes well with a number of other prosperous dishes.
There are several reasons why people consider fish to be lucky. Some believe fish signify abundance since they swim in schools and their scales resemble money. Others associate the fish swimming forward to moving forward into the New Year. In the Middle Ages, cod was most easily preserved while being transported on long boat voyages. The Catholic Church also had a policy against red meat, so fish was a logical choice for mighty feasts and celebrations. These past traditions have made their way into modern times. Italians enjoy dried salt cod from Christmas through New Year’s Day. The Polish eat herring at midnight and the Danish loved boiled cod. The Germans lean toward carp and often keep a few fish scales in the wallets for good luck. Seafood salad and a variety of fishes are prepared for the Swedish New Year. The Japanese feasts on shrimp for long life, herring roe for fertility and dried sardines for a good harvest year. At the very least, fish is a great source of protein and high in nutrients such as Omega-3s.
Cakes & Baked Goods
Cakes and other baked goods, especially those of ring or round in shape, are considered fortunate for the New Year, symbolizing the coming of a full circle. Many cultures hide little treasures inside the cake and the person who receives it will be the luckiest. Mexicans enjoys a ring-shaped cake with delicious candied fruit and often have more than one trinket hidden inside. “Vasilopita” is a baked round cake with a hidden coin that is most popular in Greece. They have a similar ritual in Sweden and Norway where whoever gets the whole almond in the batch of rice pudding will be prosperous for the next year. Donut pastries, often dusted with powered sugar and filled with apples, currants and raisins, are well enjoys in Italy, Poland, Hungary, Holland and the Netherlands. Although cakes and donuts are not the healthiest food, a bit of indulgence can go a great way for some stress relief.
Unlucky Foods To Avoid
Even if you cannot enjoy any of the lucky foods listed above, there are two foods that you should avoid to prevent bad luck for the New Year. Chicken, or any winged animal, is cautioned against consuming since it symbolizes that your good luck could fly away. Lobster is another animal that should be avoided to prevent bad luck. Since they move backwards, it is believed eating lobster can lead to setbacks in the upcoming year.
Now you know how to make this next New Year’s feat the luckiest one yet. Just one more superstition to remember; it is proper to leave a small amount of food on your plate past the chime of midnight. This is believed to encourage prosperity and a stocked pantry into the upcoming year. So stock up on your beans, pork and greens, don’t forget your sweet treats, and have a Happy New Year!
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