What To Eat For A Happy New Year

NewYear1908There are as many “lucky” New Year’s foods as there are cultures that have New Year’s celebrations.

  • Many cultures believe that any food shaped like a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle.  For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune. [Who are we to argue with this solid logic? Donuts are fantastic.They might as well be lucky, too.]
  • Even the round foods that lack donut-like holes in the middle are thought to bring good fortune in the new year: Black Eyed Peas [the legume, not the band with annoyingly catchy songs] and rice make up Hoppin’ John, a New Year’s dish from the American south, thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck. Round foods symbolize coins – which in turn symbolize good fortune. 
  • With your spherical black eyed peas, or lentils, or other round foods, many New Year’s celebrants serve up cooked greens like collard, mustard, or turnip greens. These foods are traditional accompaniments to beans and rice, and are also greenthe color of money.  A little cornbread on the side [it’s tasty *and* the color of gold!] rounds out the lucky menu on January 1.
  • The Greek Vasilopita cake is a round coffee cake, with a secret coin hidden inside. [Two kinds of good luck symbols!]
  • [See our blog post about Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year, for more symbolic, lucky round foods].
  • In the Philippines, families enjoy a midnight feast as the New Year begins, choosing from a basket of twelve different round fruits, to symbolize prosperity in each of the coming year’s 12 months.
  • Many traditions dictate that people should eat pork on New Year’s Day, but eschew poultry. [One explanation of this is that pigs “root forward” to find their dinner, but chickens and turkeys scratch backwards in dirt to scrounge up their meager meal. We should strive to avoid having to scratch out a living like poultry do].
  • Another frequent theme in What To Eat For New Year’s Day seems to be eating what my spouse calls “peasant food”ham and beans, root vegetables, field greens, simple and hearty dishes make from basic and inexpensive ingredients. The idea seems to be to not “put on airs,” lest you tempt the gods to curse you for your vanity and your overinflated sense of self-importance.

Besides, after a long night of revelry, coming at the end of a long month of holiday activity, a big fancy-pants meal is more trouble than it’s worth, don’t you think? Peasant food sounds like a good idea.

Photo credit: A Toast To The New Year, 1908, on Flickr.