Across North America, people celebrate the new year with fireworks, songs, laughter, and fun. A new year brings new beginnings, and to set the stage for positivity and good luck, many rely on the powerful magic of old traditions and symbolic foods for health, wealth, and happiness. From cake and cabbage to pomegranates and pork, lucky foods help set the stage for future health and happiness. Here's how you can start 2024 right with fortunate foods.
In the southern United States, a delicious bowl of creamy black-eyed peas is practically a New Year's Day requirement. Believed to bring prosperity, culinary historians trace these tasty legumes' association with good luck to 500 A.D., when they were eaten on the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah.
The beans are often served with collard greens, which are associated with money. When cornbread is served on the side, the yellow tones of the bread represent gold. When mixed with tomatoes, black-eyed peas are said to bring both wealth and health.
Many Eastern European cultures ring in the new year with cabbage. The veggie’s symbolism runs deep; its round shape stands for good luck, its green color is associated with financial success, and strands of cut cabbage suggest long life.
Some believe that the number of strands cut from a cabbage head indicates the amount of money you'll make in the new year. See for yourself with this simple sauerkraut recipe:
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large head cabbage, thinly shredded (about 12 cups)
- 2 ½ tbsp. caraway seeds
- 2 ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- Heat oil in a large pot on medium-high heat.
- Add cabbage, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, and ½ cup of water.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until cabbage is tender.
- Stir in vinegar and serve warm.
When it comes to eating a good-luck meal, cabbage and pork go hand in hand. In Eastern Europe, the two dishes are often served together, thanks to pork's strong association with prosperity.
Some believe it's because pork was once a luxury reserved for the wealthy and ruling class. Others point to pigs' tendency to root in a forward direction—the direction you want to move in a new year, rather than digging backward like other farm animals.
Let's be honest: We're up for a slice of cake no matter the time of year. But on New Year's Day, cake—especially when baked in a ring or round shape—takes on a special meaning. In Greece, for instance, people enjoy a king's pie or vasilopita on the first day of the new year.
Bakers hide a trinket or coin inside this almond-y treat. Whoever's fortunate enough to get that special slice takes it as a sign of more luck to come.
Cultures around the world welcome the new year by eating fresh fruit. Filipino households serve 12 types of fruit—one for each month—on New Year's Eve. But not just any fruit will do: lucky fruits are always round. Fortunately, that leaves a lot of options, from apples and plums to cherries and melons.
In Mexico and Spain, round fruits also take center stage. As the clock strikes midnight, people try to eat 12 grapes as quickly as possible. And in parts of the Mediterranean, juicy red pomegranates are eaten to ensure abundance.
Cheers to More Holidays!
Though the specific food choices vary from culture to culture, one thing remains the same: People love to eat delicious treats associated with fortune, prosperity, and health. Whether you cook up a pot of black-eyed peas or munch on a luscious pomegranate, eating New Year's foods for good luck is the perfect way to start the year. If you're in a festive mood and fancy celebrating even more reasons to love life, check out these other holidays you can participate in!