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 resolutions for 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.