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New Year’s Day food traditions around the world

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As the New Year approaches, many cultures around the world prepare and serve special food on New Year's Day. Some believe that eating certain foods on the first day of the New Year will bring good fortune. According to Foodtimeline.org, “Many people will ‘eat for luck’ . . . and plan to eat special foods that, by tradition, are supposed to bring them good luck.” One such New Year's Day food tradition is black-eyed peas, considered in many cultures to symbolize prosperity, being said to represent copper coins.

Along with black-eyed peas, some cultures, particularly many African Americans, serve greens, such as collards, turnips, or kale. Cabbage is another green vegetable served on New Year’s Day. Such green vegetables represent prosperity in the form of paper money.

Similarly, some cultures will make sure that rice, another so-called good luck food, is eaten on New Year's Day. Hoppin John, southern dish that combines black-eyed peas and rice, might be a considered a “double dose of luck.”

Foodtimeline.org mentions that several nationalities include pork on the New Year’s Day menu. The Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut on the first day of the New Year is said also to bring good luck and protection. This practice may be traced back to Europe when wild boars were hunted and killed on the first day of the year. When Austrians, Swedes, Germans and other European settlers arrived in the United States, they may have brought this custom with them.

Another New Year’s food tradition comes from Spain, where it is customary to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Each grape signifies one month of the upcoming year. A sweet grape means the month will be good. A sour grape means the month will be bad.

Other cultures include some form of fish as a lucky dish. People in the Northwestern part of the U.S. may choose to eat salmon on New Year’s Day. Some Germans and Poles choose herring, which may be served in a cream sauce or pickled. According to German folklore, eating a herring at the stroke of midnight will bring luck for the next year. Other Germans may choose to eat carp.

Many cultures believe that any food in the shape of a ring will bring good luck, as the closing of the ring means 'coming full circle' and represents a fresh start in the New Year. For example, lentils are symbolic of prosperity, so lentil soup or lentils with rice make up the first meal of the New Year in Brazil.

Regardless of what you choose to eat on the first day of the New Year, may the blessings of the Lord abound toward you, for the blessings of the Lord makes one rich. God’s desire is that His people prosper and be in health, even as their souls prosper, as the following poem suggests:

Some insist that menus on the first day of the year

Include black eyed peas for prosperity, by all means,

And wealth symbolized in mustard, kale or collard greens.

These valued kitchen customs many folk still hold dear.

But beyond traditions and symbols of earthly wealth,

We know God desires that we prosper and be in health.

Check out a related article on Soul food junkies and food for the soul with a slide show of popular soul food items.

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