Lucky foods: New Year's Day traditions from around the globe

You're probably not eating enough black-eyed peas for the most luck

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

Organic pulses, including lentils and beans, lie in glass cylinders on display at the 2013 Gruene Woche agricultural trade fair on January 18, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

From collard greens to sauerkraut and pork, people around the world hoping to bring themselves good fortune celebrate the first day of the new year with food traditions thought to bring luck.

Stores begin putting canned black-eyed peas and bags of sauerkraut up front during the last week of 2018 to supply the ingredients for families’ New Year’s Day meals.

Here’s a look at some of those foods and why people eat them at the start of a new year.

More black-eyed peas, please

In the South, cornbread, collard greens and black-eyed peas make up the staples of a New Year’s Day good-luck meal.

Collard greens symbolize money and a prosperous new year. The tradition for black-eyed peas is that you should eat one pea for every day of the year to bring luck and prosperity, although not everyone eats 365 peas in one sitting.

It’s also tradition to put a penny in the peas and whoever gets the bowl of peas with the coin will have the best luck in the new year.

Peas simmered with rice become a dish known as Hoppin’ John and often served with cornbread that represents gold for financial prosperity.

Black-eyed peas were mostly a popular staple in African-American households and the southern U.S.  until 1937 when a Texas businessman started marketing the lucky black-eyed peas, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Let them eat cake

A Greek tradition is to make a cake called vasilopita on New Year’s Day. The cake is similar to sweet bread and topped with almonds. The cake is baked with a coin inside and the person who gets the slice with the coin will have good luck for the whole year.

Fermenting into the new year

Fermented cabbage, which represents wealth, creates the prime ingredient in the German-based New Year’s Day meal of sauerkraut, pork and potatoes.

The fragrant dish is popular among families with roots in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia with German, Hungarian, Polish and Czech ancestry.

This meal is more practical than for luck. Cabbage takes about six to eight weeks to ferment, and is usually harvested in October, which means it will be ready by Jan. 1.

Lucky lentils

In Italian households, coin-shaped lentils represent money and prosperity. The legumes are served with spicy pork sausage after midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Many cultures includes pork to welcome the new year. Pigs root forward, unlike other animals that move backward or stand still, representing a forward look into the new year.

In Italy, it’s also tradition to throw old possessions out the window after midnight. It’s a literal take on "out with the old in with the new."

Eat off your plate, then throw it

In Denmark, the traditional lucky meal happens on New Year's Eve, and consists of boiled cod, kale and pork.

It's also custom to throw dishes at your neighbor's door as a sign of friendship, according to NPR. Really!

What does your New Year's Day meal include? Take our poll below and let us know.

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