New Year’s Food Traditions

Posted by Annette Bellisari on

I love reading and learning about New Year’s Food Traditions from around the world. Some many traditions claim good fortune, long life, etc. Check out our blog this week to learn a few.

According to tradition, the foods you eat on New Year’s Day will bring you good fortune in the year to come. Around the world, these traditions vary greatly -- special cakes and breads abound, as do long noodles (representing long life), field peas (representing coins), herring (representing abundance) and pigs (representing good luck). The details are different, but the general theme is the same: Share food and drink with family and friends to usher in a year of prosperity.

Here are some of the most common New Year's food traditions here in the U.S.A.:

Pork -- Ham is often a holiday centerpiece, but pork is specifically known to bring good luck on New Year’s Day. Why is pork on New Year’s a tradition? First, it has to do with the way pigs, as opposed to other animals, behave. According to some theorists, while chickens and turkeys scratch backward, a pig buries his snout into the ground and moves forward—in the same direction you want to head in the New Year. Another reason is logistics: Pigs are traditionally slaughtered in late fall, which made pork an ideal choice to set aside for celebrating the New Year. Pork eaten on New Year’s is a tradition that hails from Germany and Eastern Europe.

Cabbage -- Right alongside the pork is often sauerkraut or some form of cabbage. This tradition also hails from Germany and Eastern Europe, and is, again, rooted in simple logistics: A late fall harvest, coupled with a six-to-eight-week fermenting process means that sauerkraut is just about ready when New Year’s rolls around. But cabbage on New Year’s is also steeped in symbolism—the strands of cabbage in sauerkraut or coleslaw can symbolize a long life, while cabbage can also symbolize money. Along with cabbage, other greens such as collard, mustard, and kale are known to be lucky for New Year’s. It’s all about the green, which symbolizes money and prosperity.

Black-eyed peas -- Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a time-honored tradition in the southern part of our country. Not to be confused with green peas, black-eyed peas are a kind of bean. There are a few different reasons why they’re associated with luck on New Year’s Day. One theory anchors the tradition in the Civil War, when Union soldiers raided the Confederate army’s food supply, leaving behind only this bean thinking it was animal food. Another is anchored in African American history, where newly-freed slaves celebrated the January 1863 Emancipation Proclamation with dishes made of black-eyed peas—one of the few foods available to slaves. Still, other theories date the legume's lucky reputation all the way back to Ancient Egypt, suggesting that eating the pea—a vegetable readily available to even the poorest slaves—was a way to show humility to the gods.

For inspiration and new ways to make these traditional foods, visit the recipes section of our website: Simply search using the key words pork or cabbage to find some delicious versions that turn these New Year’s staples into “gourmet” good-luck foods. Happy New Year from all of us at Bellisari’s!

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