The holiday season is full of long-standing traditions but our favorites always tend to center around eating. No matter where you’re from many people believe what you do on January 1 can set the tone for the entire year to come.
And there is no better way to ring in the New Year than by eating! While you could overload on chips and dip with champagne, why not eat foods that will supposedly bestow your life with prosperity in the New Year? There are New Year’s resolutions to be made and goals to achieve—we need all the luck we can get once 2024 rolls around.
Luckily (pun intended) there is a sundry of foods that when eaten on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day are said to call forth good fortune in the coming 12 months.
Look to these good luck foods when the clock strikes midnight for good fortune in the year to come.
People from around the world will eat traditional foods as the clock strikes midnight in hopes of bringing a little more luck and good fortune into their lives. As you reflect on the past year and make those resolutions, try these edible traditions from around the world to ring in your luckiest (and tastiest) year yet.
Since seeds are associated with fertility and life, eating pomegranates may just be the key to a lively new year. In Greek culture, a pomegranate is placed outside the home and smashed on New Year’s Day. The more seeds that scatter during the initial smash, the luckier the year that lies ahead will be. In Turkish culture, pomegranate seeds are also celebrated for fertility so if you’re attempting to start or grow a family you might want to stock up.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t add extra fruit to your sparkling drink when you toast at midnight or turn it into a delicious treat—like pomegranate pavlova with pistachios and honey—for your guests.
2. Black-eyed peas
If you’re cooking a New Year’s dinner in the South, chances are you’re serving black-eyed peas prepared with pork, celery, and onion. Also known as Hoppin’ John, the traditional dish has been consumed for luck for more than 1,500 years (they got their start as part of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah). These little legumes also pack important nutrients, like fiber and vitamin A, so you can stick to your healthy resolutions, too.
Black-eyed peas simmered into a stew with ham hock and collard greens are known as Hoppin’ John or Carolina Peas and Rice. It’s a traditional meal in the South eaten on New Year’s Day. There are a couple of myths surrounding the luck associated with black-eyed peas. Some say the shape of black-eyed peas which are actually beans represent coins and therefore encourage wealth. Others trace the humble black eyed pea back to Civil War era where the beans are said to have prevented families from starvation. Whatever the reason, black-eyed peas continue to remain a traditional lucky food to have on January 1 throughout much of the South.
3. Leafy greens
Dark leafy greens (collard greens, spinach, kale, etc.) resemble money (plus they are good for you).
Did you know that downing a kale salad is good for more than just your health? Leafy greens, like kale, collard greens, spinach, and romaine lettuce are symbolic of wealth. They’re the same color and crispness of a fresh dollar bill which is why it’s considered lucky to eat leafy greens when seeking monetary gains in the New Year. As the Southern saying goes “peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold.”
Any excuse to eat cornbread is OK in my book. In many of the southern states cornbread is considered lucky due to its golden brown color which is said to bring gold and wealth in the upcoming year. So slather on some butter, dig in, and maybe pair it with a bowl of Hoppin’ John for extra luck.
The longer the noodle, the longer the life! At least, that’s what this ancient superstition says. Traditionally slurped up for Chinese New Year, soba noodles are extra-long and symbolize longevity. Just be careful to not break the noodles on their way from bowl to mouth!
Different types of noodles are consumed across Asia in the New Year and symbolize longevity. In Japan, toshikoshi soba, is a meal composed of buckwheat noodles in a steaming broth of daishi, soy sauce, and mirin. is a common meal to consume on New Year’s Eve; a healthy and simple way to start the New Year off fresh. In Chinese culture, yi mein noodles, the satisfyingly chewy and brightly yellow egg noodles are stir-fried and said to encourage long life. Whatever type of noodles you fancy, slurp them up and you may not be only full but also blessed with a long and fulfilling life.
Dumplings are an important part of New Year’s traditions around the world from Chinese 餃子 (jiao zi) to Russian pelmeni. They’re shaped like little money pouches or the coins themselves and are meant to represent prosperity, wealth, and health.
The homemade ones are truly a labor of love so gather some family members and have everyone help with assembly. And don’t worry about getting them perfect-looking—even the wonkiest of the bunch are sure to bring health and wealth in the New Year.
In Spain and Mexico, it is tradition to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight representing the 12 months within a calendar year. It is believed that the luck you’ll possess each month is dependent on the sweetness of the grapes; if you come across any tart grapes then make sure to prepare yourself for a bumpy month that corresponds with the sour grape you consumed.
8. Ring-shaped cakes
It’s always a good time for cake—especially if you’re celebrating a special occasion like ringing in the New Year. A round, ring-shaped cake in particular is known to represent the full circle of life.
Ring-shaped foods such as the tasty bundt cake are said to be symbolic of the year coming full circle. Try a crowd-pleasing Bundt cake in pumpkin spice or lemon-lime flavor or go for something unexpected like a round-shaped monkey bread.
I will joyously consume cake for any occasion so this whole luck thing just feels like a bonus. Due to their shape (they somewhat resemble coins), they are also thought to bring forth wealth in the New Year. A wide interpretation of this one is acceptable. Even doughnuts, because why not?
In the Netherlands, eating fried doughnut-like pastries called oliebollen is said to be lucky. They usually have a good dusting of powdered sugar on top.
In Greek culture, friends and family gather around for a vasilopita, a zesty orange cake that often has a coin baked inside. Whoever receives the slice with the coin in it gets extra luck for the New Year and usually a gift or prize. So bust out your cake pan and bake yourself some luck for 2022.
9. Pork and sauerkraut
If you’re looking to personally advance in the New Year, pork may be a good option for you. Like many other cultures, the Pennsylvania Dutch believes eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck because pigs are animals that root forward as they sniff out and eat food and therefore emblematic of progress in the year. After all, we want to move forward, not backward, in the New Year. Sauerkraut is made from cabbage—a symbol of money because it’s leafy and green.
The tradition spans across continents from roasted lechon in the Philippines to marzipan pigs in Northern Europe to pork and sauerkraut dishes served in the U.S. As noted in The Morning Call, eating pork is “part superstition and part tradition like a Pennsylvania Dutch-style insurance policy for the new year.” The fattiness of pork is also related to luxury and wealth so fry up some bacon to start the New Year.
If you’re looking for an alternative protein to eat when ringing in the New Year then try fish. It’s alleged that the shimmery scales look like coins and in some Eastern European cultures they are saved and placed in a wallet in hopes of acquiring more wealth. Fish also represent abundance because they swim in large schools. Across myriad cultures fish are consumed in hopes of a year full of success. Whatever the preparation, it can’t hurt to eat an extra serving or two.
In countries like Norway, Germany, Poland, Finland, and Sweden, herring is bountiful thanks to its proximity to the Baltic Sea. So on New Year’s, right at midnight, herring is served to encourage bounty and prosperity in the coming year. The fish’s silver scales are also said to resemble coins, which is a good sign of future fortune.
11. Buttered Bread
In Ireland, it’s said that there are several traditions involving bread on New Year’s, so many that January 1 is known to some as the Day Of Buttered Bread. One entails banging bread against a door frame to chase away bad luck while another invites good luck in by sharing the baking bounty with friends, loved ones, and neighbors.
Which one we’ll be going with?—Irish soda bread with chocolate chips, sourdough, or brioche topped with homemade garlic butter, Tuscan butter, or maple butter.
12. Oranges and tangerines
Oranges and tangerines are typically passed out during Lunar New Year to call forth prosperity so it’s only natural that these citrus fruits have made their way to our Gregorian calendar celebrations as well. The bright color evokes joy and the Chinese word for a mandarin orange, kam, is a homonym for the word gold thus making the mandarin orange an extra lucky piece of fruit.
Similar to black-eyed peas, lentils are a type of legume that looks like little coins. They’re typically eaten in Italy (and in other countries) on New Year’s to bring luck and good fortune. The red lentil hummus would make a great New Year’s Eve party snack, while the Mediterranean lentil salad would be a refreshing dish on New Year’s Day.
As lentils are soaked in water, they expand in an act that many believe symbolizes prosperity. Wintertime is great for a hearty bowl of pasta, so turn your sights towards a prosperous year with a big pot of our favorite lentil bolognese.
Lentils are eaten across the world for the New Year because the tiny legumes are said to look like little coins that will bring prosperity in the coming year—and we all could use more of those. From Italy to the Czech Republic to Brazil whether prepared in a stew, served with pork, or eaten over rice lentils might help you pad out your bank account in the progressing months.
Lentils are also delicious and good for you. They are also a great pork alternative for vegetarians.
The breaking of a New Year’s pretzel (or neujahrsbrezel) for luck and prosperity is a long-time German tradition. It can be eaten either at midnight or for breakfast on New Year’s Day. Unlike regular savory pretzels, these are made of sweet enriched dough, sort of like a babka or brioche.
Many Germans ring in the New Year with a big soft pretzel to symbolize good luck, health, and prosperity in the year ahead. According to History.com, children in the 17th century also wore pretzel necklaces on New Year’s.
If you’re a pretzel purist, consider making homemade soft pretzels or cinnamon sugar crunch pretzels or even just go store-bought maybe alongside some homemade pub cheese or funfetti dip? What’s really important is sharing and breaking them with loved ones (the pretzels also represent interconnectedness), so you do you.
15. Fortune Cookies
Kick off the New Year with messages of luck, hope, and prosperity for your friends and family. Slide each personalized message into a handmade cookie (yes, you really can make your fortune cookies at home). If your loved ones have a good sense of humor, consider swapping in a joke or two—starting the New Year off with laughter can’t be a bad thing! If you’re crunched for time, you can pick up a set of pre-made fortune cookies before the evening begins.
What not to eat
Unless you want to tempt fate, you should avoid eating the following foods because they are thought to bring bad luck on New Year’s Day.
Beef and poultry: Think of why we eat pork: Pigs root around, moving forward. Cows eat standing still (which is what will happen to you if you eat beef). Even worse, chickens and turkeys scratch backward. That not what you want in 2023.
Shellfish: Lobsters and crabs swim backward and sideways and (you probably sense a theme here) you want to eat only foods that move you forward. (Most fish swim forward, but skip catfish as they are bottom dwellers).
No white foods: In Chinese culture, all-white foods—eggs, white cheese, tofu—are unlucky on New Year’s Day because white is thought to symbolize death.
Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.