On New Year’s Day, many different traditions are observed all over the world in hopes for good luck, health, and happiness in the New Year. These range from recognizing superstitions to eating certain foods for good luck.
It is believed in the Philippines that if you jump up in the air as high as you can after midnight on New Year’s Eve, you will grow taller in the New Year. I wish I had heard of this one before! Others do not wash clothes or clean the house on New Year’s Day for fear that they may wash away good luck that is headed their way. In Greece, people hang onions on their front doors as a symbol of rebirth or new growth. In China and Portugal, they don’t put their purses on the floor because it is believed to be bad luck that will bring money problems in the New Year.
As long as I can remember, my family has always shared a “lucky dinner” on New Year’s Day. This is a southern tradition in the United States that dates back to the Civil War. My great-grandma made this dinner, as did my grandma, my mom, and I try to do it for my family and friends each year. Here’s some background on each of the food items that make up this special dinner:
Pork – We enjoy a pork roast or pork barbecue as part of our dinner. In many countries the pig represents progress. Some say it is because pigs never move backwards. Others believe it’s all in their feeding habits because they push their snouts forward along the ground when rooting for food.
Black-eyed peas – In the Southern United States, eating black-eyed peas is thought to bring prosperity in the New Year. The peas are typically cooked with a pork product for flavoring (such as bacon, fatback, ham bones, or hog jowls) and diced onion, and served with a hot chili sauce or a pepper-flavored vinegar.
Sauerkraut – This is a German tradition that is thought to bring blessings of wealth for the New Year. Traditionally, those partaking in the meal would wish each other as much wealth and goodness as the number of shreds of cabbage in the sauerkraut. It is also thought to reduce or avoid any bitterness in the New Year.
Collard Greens – Their color and appearance represent paper money. Belief has it, the more you eat, the more prosperous you’ll be (and healthier too!). Collard greens are often prepared similarly to the black-eyed peas with some pork, onions and a pepper flavored vinegar. Absolutely delicious. I encourage you to try them if you’ve never had them. I look forward to them every year.
Cornbread – is said to bring good fortune. The color represents gold. In addition, the corn represents grain and good luck that you will have food to feed you and your family in the New Year. Sometimes people add extra corn kernels which are emblematic of gold nuggets.
Some other lucky foods and traditions are to eat:
Grapes – This is also a Spanish tradition. Just like Americans drink champagne and grab a kiss at the stroke of midnight, people in Spain eat 12 grapes. They are supposed to eat one grape for every chime the clock makes when striking midnight. Not an easy task! The 12 grapes represent the upcoming 12 months. You are supposed to pay attention to the taste of each grape. If you have a bitter grape, you need to watch out for the month that grape represents. Wishing you 12 sweet grapes!
Ring-shaped cake – It is believed that eating a ring-shaped cake will bring a circle of luck for the following year. It symbolizes coming full circle. In some traditions, a coin is baked into the cake which is believed to bring an extra serving of good luck to the person who finds it. In addition, the spice cake adds a little “spice” to your New Year.
Pomegranates – They are considered a lucky food in Turkey. Their red color, which resembles the human heart, denotes life and fertility; their medicinal properties represent health; and their abundant, round seeds, represent prosperity – all things everyone hopes for in a fresh start. In Greece, people hurl the whole pomegranates to the floor to release a flood of seeds that symbolize life and abundance.
A few others are to eat the whole fish (with head and tail), oranges and tangerines, pickled herring, dumplings, lentils, and even long noodles.
Just a fun tidbit, in pre-Christian Rome under the Julian calendar, the first day of January, New Year’s Day, was dedicated to Janus, god of gateways and beginnings, for whom January is also named.
What are your New Year traditions? Please feel free to share!
Wishing you lots of GOOD LUCK in the New Year!