While New Year’s Eve can involve copious amounts of champagne and noisy, many around the world celebrate New Year’s Day with “lucky” dishes traditionally eaten to bring good luck in the coming year.
And depending on where you live, the food on your plate may vary.
Here’s a story about some remarkable New Year’s food traditions around the world and what they symbolize:
This is a main menu in the southern United States, which usually consists of black-eyed peas, rice and pork. It originated with enslaved Africans brought to the United States in the 19th century, food historian and cookbook author John Martin Taylor told the Washington Post.
“In the American South, with both rice and black-eyed peas available, the natives of West Africa were able to prepare a dish that reminded them of home: a humble combination of rice and beans that eventually became known as hoppin ‘John,” the publisher . reported.
Although it remains unclear among historians exactly how the dish came to symbolize good luck, some believe it may have started in the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when slaves of Africans rarely got time off from harvesting and planting.
Taylor told the business that this was a good time to thank for previous crops and raise expectations for the upcoming season. Such a ritual may have evolved into a good luck tradition in which bouncing John served as the centerpiece.
Often served with collard greens and cornbread, some food historians believe that the origin of the dish’s unusual name came from “pois pigeons”, which is French for dried peas and is pronounced “paw-peejohn”. This may have sounded like “hoppin ‘John” to English speakers, according to History.com.
At midnight you can find Italians eating lentils as part of several dishes each year to load the new year.
“Lentils, or lenticchie, are believed to bring good luck in Italy, and to eat them at New Year’s – shortly after midnight – is a tradition said to date back to ancient Rome,” according to The Local, an English-language news network in Europe.
Ancient Romans would give a bag full of lenses – which are round and coin-shaped – as a gift to wish friends good luck in the new year, the business reports.
The tradition was eventually brought to the United States in the 16th century by Portuguese and Spanish, notes History.com.
Pork and sauerkraut
FILE – New Year’s pork and sauerkraut dinner in a file photo taken on January 1, 2014. (Photo by Reading Eagle: Tim Leedy / MediaNews Group / Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
Head to parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio and other nearby regions and you will find that many enjoy pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.
The court is said to bring good luck and progress because pigs are known to mess up – or move on, according to History.com. Sauerkraut is made with cabbage, which is associated with symbolic riches, prosperity and longevity due to its long strands.
The history website says that this dish was a Germanic tradition that was brought to America by the Pennsylvania Dutch.
“Fresh pork was the star of Christmas and New Year’s meals for early settlers because of its timing of winter slaughter of pigs, and sauerkraut was served as an accompaniment because winter was also cabbage harvest season,” it says.
Calling the year in with toshikoshi soba, a soup with buckwheat “year-crossing noodles,” is meant to symbolize moving from one year to the next with good wishes ahead.
The dish is a long-standing New Year’s Eve tradition in Japan and is now practiced in many parts of the world, including the United States
The word toshikoshi means “to climb or jump from the old year to the new,” according to The Japan Times. The long, thin noodles represent a long, healthy life and date back to the 13th or 14th century, “when either a temple or a wealthy gentleman decided to pamper the hungry people with soba noodles on the last day of the year.”
FILE – A woman and her family prepare tamales, traditional Mexican food prepared during the holiday season, January 16, 2021 in Tepoztlan, Mexico. (Photo credit: Carlos Tischler / Eyepix Group / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Tamales, which are bundles of masa filled with meat and cheeses, wrapped in corn husks and steamed, have come to represent a solid ingredient throughout the holiday season for many in Mexico, Central America, South America and the southwestern United States.
In Mexico, this dish is enjoyed from December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to January 6, Three Kings’ Day, according to History.com. Tamales date back to Mesoamerican culture, as early as 8000 to 5000 BC.
And tamales symbolize much more than food.
“They bring the whole family together. It’s partly art, partly hard work, partly repetitive work, but whole family bonding,” explains Bashas, a family-owned grocery chain based in Arizona. “This is a very special time that brings generations together, an event families look forward to every year, making it a joyful and meaningful gathering.”
12 lucky grapes
In Spain and parts of Latin America, a tradition of cutting 12 grapes at midnight – one for each time – will bring success in the coming year, according to History.com.
Some trace the tradition of the 12 lucky grapes, or uvas de la suerte, to grape farmers in Alicante, Spain, who proposed the idea when they had a surplus harvest to unload in the early 1900s, reports Atlas Obscura.
But newspaper articles about the tradition from the 1880s suggest that it may also have evolved from the bourgeoisie of Madrid, which copied the French custom of drinking champagne and eating grapes on New Year’s Eve, according to food writer Jeff Koehler.
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This story was reported from Cincinnati.