Culture: New Years Food Traditions from Around the World

New Year's Foods from Around the World by Wanderlust Designer
New Year’s Foods from Around the World by Wanderlust Designer

New Year’s is a time of resolution and new energy. It’s a time when people from around the world sit down and list their hopes, aspirations and dreams for the upcoming year. To make these hopes come true, many cultures are quite superstitious and eat certain foods. There are foods to eat for good luck, and foods to eat for prosperity. There are foods to eat for progress and foods to eat for longevity.

New Year's Foods from Around the World (illustration by Wanderlust Designer)
New Year’s Foods from Around the World (illustration by Wanderlust Designer)

Whether or not you believe in these superstitions, the tradition of serving certain foods on New Year’s are quite ingrained for some. My mom has always been insistent that we eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day. As a child, I remember this to be pure torture (I did not like the taste.) I was convinced, though, if I didn’t eat them, bad things might come my way, so I held my nose and gulped down a few bites just to ensure a lucky year ahead.

When I got married, my husband looked at me sideways when I forced him to enjoy the peas. Lo and behold we are still eating our black eyed peas on New Year’s Day and have our children following the tradition as well.

Here are a few New Year’s food traditions from around the world. Perhaps you already partake in one of these traditions. If not, there’s always next year!

Grapes – In Spain, Mexico and many other countries around the world, 12 grapes are eaten at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Each grape symbolizes a month, and once all are eaten, you are certain for a wonderful year ahead!

Pomegranate – In Greece, a pomegranate is smashed on the floor of the front door. The seeds symbolize prosperity and good luck.

Fish – Fish has been a popular New Year’s dish across Europe since the Middle Ages. The scales are said to represent coins for prosperity. Fish also travel in schools which represents prosperity. Fish swim forward which is a sign for progress.

Greens – Many European countries serve cooked greens on New Year’s. The green leafy vegetables literally look like folded money, so prosperity is sure to head your way.

Pig – Pig is considered one of the luckiest foods to eat in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria on New Year’s. Pigs root forward, symbolizing progress. The rich fat content is said to bring wealth and prosperity in countries like Italy and United States.

Noodles – In China, Japan and many other Asian countries long noodles are served. The long noodles represent longevity, so be sure not to break them in half or bite them while eating!

Black Eyed Peas – A tradition in Southern United States, black eyed peas are said to represent pennies/coins and will bring you good luck.

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