If there is one universal holiday, it’s New Year’s Eve. No matter where you go on the globe, you’re likely not far from fireworks, parties, and people toasting to a happy and healthy new year ahead. Of course, food plays a huge role in any culture, and many foods have taken a central role in sustaining superstitions about what brings good fate and fortune in the new year.
Because even the biggest skeptic out there doesn’t want to tempt fate, most of us add a few of these foods to our New Year’s menus. Here are 11 lucky foods to choose from:
Green symbolizes wealth in many countries around the world — think, four leaf clovers, money, and even jade jewelry — so people eat greens New Year’s Eve to bring them good luck (especially financial luck) in the coming year.
News Year’s just wouldn’t be the same in the South without a serving of black-eyed peas. They’re thought to bring prosperity — especially when paired with collard greens and cornbread.
Even folks who aren’t from the south sometimes ring in the New Year with black-eyed peas, leafy greens, and a slice of cornbread. As the saying goes, “peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold.”
In Spain and Mexico, it’s customary to eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight — one each hour. (It’s harder than it sounds!)
Pigs root around with their snouts moving forward, which is why many cultures around the world eat pork on New Years Day — to symbolize progress in the coming year. Also, the fat is said to bring a New Year rich in happiness.
Cabbage is associated with good luck and fortune since its green color is shared with money. Also, the long shreds of cabbage are thought to symbolize long life. Pork and cabbage together is a pretty classic New Year’s Day dish for those in Ireland, Germany, and their cultural descendants in parts of the United States (largely Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia).
Ring-shaped cakes are sweets symbolize a circle of lunch. Some culture bake in a toy, trinket, or coin, and whoever finds it, is said to have an extra dose of good luck.
Asian cultures eat fish on the Lunar New Year, while Europeans feast on fish including cod, carp, and herring. It’s unclear how fish gained such a New Year following, but perhaps its a sign of abundance — “So many fish in the sea!” It could also be that the silvery scales of pickled herring look like rich coins.
Seeds are often associated with fertility. In Greece and Armenia, they smash pomegranates on the floor to release the seeds and symbolize life. In Turkey, the jewel-toned fruit is eaten as a sign of good luck.
In many Asian cultures, if you can eat extra long noodles on New Year’s Day without breaking them, it’s said you’ll enjoy an extra long life.
In Italy, people have associated lentils with money because they look like little coins. It is said that eating them on January 1 will bring good fortune in the year ahead.