A new year is upon us! Do you celebrate New Year’s Day with any special traditions? Some people like to watch football games and others take time to make resolutionsfor the coming year.

Another popular tradition is to prepare some lucky foods to start the new year off on the right foot. What foods are lucky and why do people think they’re lucky? Come along as we take a look at some of the most popular lucky New Year’s foods and how they got their reputation.

Although traditions vary around the world, New Year’s Day lucky foods can be broken down into six major categories: greens, grapes, pork, fish, legumes and cake. Let’s take a closer look at each:

  • Greens
    Many different types of cooked greens, including cabbage, kale, chard and collard greens are considered lucky in different countries around the world. Why? Many people believe their green leaves look like folded money. People who eat cooked greens on New Year’s Day hope that the new year will bring them good luck on the economic front.
  • Grapes
    People all around the world, particularly in Spain, Portugal and former Spanish and Portuguese colonies like Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru, eat 12 grapes at midnight. Each of the grapes represents one of the months of the coming year. Some believe that the grapes can predict trends in the coming year. For example, if the fifth grape eaten is sour, the fifth month (May) might be difficult.
  • Pork
    Pork is the main dish of choice on New Year’s Day in many countries around the world, including Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Italy and the United States. Some believe pigs are lucky because their high fat content represents prosperity and wealth. Others think pigs symbolize progress, because pigs are known to push forward with their snouts while rooting in the ground.
  • Fish
    Fish are also popular on New Year’s Day. Although some countries have specific traditions surrounding particular kinds of fish, experts believe that fish became a popular holiday or feast food thousands of years ago for a couple of reasons. First, religious traditions often substituted fish for red meat during feasts. Second, fish could be preserved and transported more easily than other meats long ago before modern refrigeration and transportation.
  • Legumes
    Legumes, such as peas, beans and lentils, are eaten by many different countries around the world. In the U.S., for example, it’s common in the South to eat black-eyed peas as part of a dish called “hoppin’ john.” Black-eyed peas are considered lucky, because they are believed to have saved the residents of Vicksburg, Mississippi, when the town ran out of food while under attack during the Civil War. Others believe legumes resemble small coins that swell when cooked, so some people eat them with the hope of receiving great riches in the new year.
  • Cake
    From donuts to more traditional cakes, round or ring-shaped sweets are very popular on New Year’s Day. Many people believe round foods symbolize a full circle and bring good luck that the coming year will go well and come “full circle” around to this same point in time the following year.

Just like there are lucky foods you should eat, there are also a few foods that many people believe you should avoid. For example, many people believe you should avoid lobster and chicken because these creatures often move backwards. Others believe you should avoid all birds, so that your luck won’t fly away!

And, finally, one more word of warning before you dig in: always leave a little food on your plate. Many people believe eating everything on your plate means you’re greedy and will result in bad luck. On the other hand, leaving a little food on your plate will guarantee you’ll have plenty to eat in the coming year.


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    • Hi, Vikkie! Thanks for trying to guess what tomorrow’s Wonder will be! We WONDER what it will be, too! Your guess is a GREAT one! :-)

  1. We are excited to get home to have pork and sauerkraut. This is a family tradition that we have every New Year’s Day. Also watching lots of great football games. Happy New Year wonder friends!

    • Happy New Year to you, Maria! Thank you for sharing your family’s food tradition with us today! We hope you and your “MC” kids have a GREAT 2012! :-)

  2. I was close! Even my parents were wondering why we dropped the ball! That would of been a good wonder. Oh, well. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be why do we drop the ball on new year’s eve or something about sleep like Vikkie said.

    • Hi, Paige! Thanks for another AWESOME comment! We think a Wonder about the significance of the ball dropping at midnight is a really good idea! We will definitely remember that for next year! Keep WONDERing…your ideas are GREAT! :-)

    • Hi, Vikkie! That’s a WONDERful guess! We can’t wait to explore the next Wonder of the Day® to see if you were right! :-)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,
    This is Sara from Mrs. Caplin’s class. I really enjoyed this wonder because I have something to connect to it. My family is from Spain, and on New Year Eve when the bells chime to signify it is 12, we eat 12 grapes, one for each chime. We believe that if you keep in time with the bells while eating the grapes, you will have good fortune. We also always eat fish for dinner. But I was surprised that there are other traditions, such as eating pork.

    When the wonder said that lobsters were bad luck I wondered, why are they bad luck if they are seafood like fish? I had no idea that if you eat all your food on New Years Eve it would mean you are greedy. So on the next New Year’s Eve dinner, I will make sure to leave some food on my plate.

    Thanks for the wonderful wonder,

    • Well, thank YOU for a WONDERful comment, Sara, and for sharing your family’s personal connection to what you learned by exploring this Wonder! We’re glad you learned about some other traditions, too!

      Even though lobster is a type of seafood, many people believe that you shouldn’t eat it around the New Year because lobsters move backwards sometimes and celebrating the New Year is all about looking FORWARD to the good times ahead! :-)

  4. This wonder made me hungry. My family is actually baking cupcakes and cookies right now (their our lucky foods). I didn’t know that sauerkraut was considered lucky. I found that interesting.

    Happy New Year!

    • Thanks for sharing some of your family’s lucky foods, Allison! We think YOU are LUCKY that you get to spend some special time baking sweet treats with your family on New Year’s Day! We’re glad you learned a little more about some other lucky foods, too! :-)

  5. Ha, ha this is very interesting…I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about what we will do for 2013. Even though we just got to 2012, some people are already planning for their 2013 New Year parties! It’s crazy but it’s true. :)

    • Some people are super planners, aren’t they, Gracie? Thank you so much for sharing what you think the next Wonder of the Day® will be about! You are a GREAT Wonder Friend, and we hope you have a WONDERful 2012! :-)

  6. Wow! I think that your wonderful video helps people know that many people eat many different foods on New Year’s day or New Year’s eve. In my family, we made it a tradition to eat sauerkraut and pork. We eat the pork for good luck, but I never knew why we ate the sauerkraut. Today I learned that sauerkraut is along to represent a long good life. But, I mean why is pork supposed to be lucky? I mean, the sauerkraut represents a long life because it’s long, but why is pork lucky? Anyway, I noticed a lot of familiar vocab words such as tradition, progress, economic and then I came upon the word snout. I was just wondering what New Year’s eve has to do about your nose? Well, thanks for this wonderful wonder- and Happy New Year!!!

    • Happy 2012 to you, too, Leah! You can find out why people consider pork to be lucky (and find out why the word “snout” is used) by re-visiting the “Pork” paragraph in the “Did you know?” section of this Wonder of the Day®! Thank you for your comment…we appreciate you! :-)

  7. Close your eyes and imagine eating a chocolate cake and a flounder on New Year’s Day. Man, can’t this day get even better. Did you know both of these foods represent good luck to have luck for the whole year and that’s a fact. So, go get a plate of this today. (-:

    • Thanks so much for sharing your favorite “good luck” foods with everyone in Wonderopolis, Steven! We appreciate your comment! :-)

    • Thank you, Steven! What a super nice thing to wish for all of your Wonder Friends! We hope YOU have a very happy New Year, too! :-)

  8. I never thought that foods could be known as a good luck charm this is something new to me and I enjoy that I can learn something new from wonderopolis.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What foods bring luck in the New Year?
  • Why do people believe some foods are lucky?
  • Do any foods bring bad luck?

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