Food for the New Year

New Years Lucky Foods 2016:

As with final exams and the big game, the start of a new year has a tendency to turn even non-believers a tad superstitious. All around the world, 1/1 is a day rife with tradition and symbolic ritual.  Many of the world’s most persistent New Year’s traditions revolve around eating, with certain foods acting as symbols of the eater’s hopes and wishes for the future. Recurring themes here are foods that symbolize wealth, prosperity, forward motion, long life and other sundry nice things that might (hopefully) happen to a person in the coming year. If you’d like to get yourself some good juju in the next 12 months, here are some foods to eat for luck on New Year’s Day.

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Grapes – Eat twelve grapes, one for each chime of a clock. This tradition supposedly started in 1909 by grape growers who wanted to cut down on a surplus of grapes. The grape ritual is said to guarantee sweetness and fortune in the year ahead. Each grape follows the month – so your first grape represents January, 2nd February, etc. If you happen to get a sour grape along the way, it is said to predict that month will be a challenging one in 2016. In Portugal & Cuba, celebrants make a special wish for each grape.

Round Fruits – such as oranges and pomegranates are believed to also symbolize coins and bring a prosperous New Year. Mandarin oranges and tangerines are the most popular fruit in China on New Year’s because of their golden color and they are supposed to represent wealth and good luck. In Vietnam red is a lucky color so watermelon is often served. In Greece they smash a pomegranate at the entrance of the house – the further the seeds spread the better the luck for the family. In some countries people suck on a few pomegranate seeds and then wrap them in wax paper or a small packet and keep them in their purses or wallets to ensure money year round. Figs are said to be a symbol of fertility.

Beans –  Eating black eyed peas on New Year’s is said to bring good fortune. Eat green lentils as well, as they are round, which is said to represent coins and green for the color of money. There is a mix at many grocery stores for a 15 bean soup that includes both types of beans. In Italy, people often eat green lentils with sausages (cotechino con lentichhie.) In Puerto Rico they will often make rice and beans (Arroz con gandules.) In Brazil it is lentil beans and rice. As you can see the tradition of eating beans is popular throughout several countries. In Portugal black eyed peas are served with boiled cod and potatoes. In Vietnam they are used in a sweet dessert and in Colombia they make breakfast fritters called bunuelos. Black eyed peas, corn bread and collard greens are traditional Southern dishes in the U.S. as is Hoppin’ John. They are said to bring about not only good fortune, but humility as well. In Japan black beans are often a side dish on New Year’s and it’s said that they will ensure health in the coming year.

Greens – are said to “Show you the money!” Cooked collard, spinach, cabbage and kale are all said to represent paper money. Germans eat lots of sauerkraut, Danish like their kale sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar while in the U.S., collards are quite popular. Make sure and pile it on….the more greens you eat, the more fortune (and fiber) you will have in the coming year.

Pork – If you eat meat, pick pork over chicken or beef on New Year day, because pigs dig with their snout, representing forward movement or progress, while chickens and turkeys scratch backward, and cows stand still (we all want to move forward, not backwards or stay in the same place in the New Year!)  Many cultures including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and Ireland eat pork not only because of the believe of moving forward, but fatty meat is also symbolic of fattening their wallets.

Fish – is a good choice as well since most swim forward, and the scales are believed to symbolize silver. Another theory is that since many fish swim in schools and lay lots of eggs at one time, it is a sign of abundance.  Pickled herring, salted cod, sardines and carp are popular dishes on New Year’s in European and Scandinavian countries. In Germany some people actually will put fish scales in their wallet as it’s believed to bring about good luck. The Japanese also have fish for prosperity and wealth, as well as shrimp for a long life and herring roe for fertility. In some countries the fish is served whole (head and tail,) symbolizing the end of one year and the beginning of another. No lobster or crab – remember they walk sideways and backwards. If you want seafood other than fish, shrimp, clams, mussels and oysters are all good choices.

Noodles – Eat noodles for longevity. In China the New Year’s meal always includes noodles.  Japan has the same belief and serve long toshikoshi soba noodles on New Year’s Day. Traditionally they eat them at midnight on New Year’s Eve and the longer the noodles are the better.

Grains – Rice, quinoa, risotto, barley and other starches symbolize abundance since they swell when cooked.

Sweets –  St. Basil’s bread.  Known as vasilopita in Greece, St. Basil’s bread plays an important role in Greek New Year’s traditions. The bread itself is sweet, and is baked with a coin hidden in it. At midnight, Greek families turn off the light, and the head of the household slices the vasilopita and shares it among the family. The family member who receives the piece of bread with the coin inside of it is guaranteed to have good luck in the New Year. France also serves a cake with a coin or small ceramic inside called King’s cake. Donuts and fritters are popular in Eastern Europe. In Italy many make struffoli which is a dozen small donut like balls placed in a circle and held together by honey, and topped with candied fruit and powdered sugar.

Corn bread – Said to symbolize gold, cornbread is a popular New Years southern tradition.  To ensure extra luck, some people add extra corn kernels, which are emblematic of golden nuggets.

Champagne –  Perhaps the most well known New Years tradition around the world,   a toast with champagne or prosecco.  In some cultures they suggest you take 3 short hops without spilling your drink and then pour throw the champagne behind you to put all the bad stuff in the past.  If your champagne lands on someone else – no problem as that is supposed to mean good lucky.