However, many people do believe eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring them luck. Throughout history, people have eaten certain foods on New Year's Day, hoping to gain riches, love, or other kinds of good fortune during the rest of the year.
For some nationalities, ham or pork is the luckiest thing to eat on January 1st. That leads one to wonder how a pig became associated with the idea of good luck. Hundreds of years ago in Europe, wild boars were caught in the forests and killed on the first day of the year. Also, a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground in a forward motion. Maybe people liked the idea of moving forward as the new year began, especially since pigs are also associated with plumpness and getting plenty to eat.
Austrians, Swedes, and Germans also choose pork or ham for their New Year's meal, and they brought this tradition with them when they settled in different regions of the United States. People in New England often combine their pork with sauerkraut to guarantee luck and prosperity for the coming year. Germans and Swedes tend to choose red cabbage as a lucky side dish, too. While folks in the Southern U.S. choose black-eyed peas.
In other countries, turkey is the meat of choice. Bolivians and some people in New Orleans follow this custom. But others claim that eating fowl (such as turkey, goose, or chicken) on New Year's Day will result in bad luck. Fowl scratch backward as they search for their food, and who wants to have to "scratch for a living"?
People in the northwestern part of the United States may eat salmon to get lucky. Some Germans and Poles choose herring, which may be served in a cream sauce or pickled. Other Germans eat carp.
Sometimes sweets or pastries are eaten for luck. In the colony of New Amsterdam, now New York, the Dutch settlers enjoyed sweet treats. Sometimes a special cake was made with a coin baked inside. Such cakes are traditional in Greece, which celebrates Saint Basil's Day and New Year's at the same time. The Saint Basil's Day cake (vasilopeta) is made of yeast dough and flavored with lemon. The person who gets the slice with the silver or gold coin is considered very lucky!
Hoppin' John is eaten in many southern states. Hoppin' John is made with black-eyed peas or dried red peas, combined with hog jowls, bacon, or salt pork. Rice, butter, salt, or vegetables like celery, onions and green peppers may be added. The children in the family might even hop around the table before the family sits down to eat this lucky dish.
In Brazil, lentils are a symbol of prosperity, so lentil soup or lentils with rice is prepared for the first meal of the New Year. Thousands of miles away, the Japanese observe their New Year's tradition by eating a noodle called toshikoshi soba. (This means "sending out the old year.") This buckwheat noodle is quite long, and those who can swallow at least one of them without chewing or breaking it are supposed to enjoy good luck and a long life.
Portugal and Spain have an interesting custom. As the clock strikes midnight and the new year begins, people in these countries may follow the custom of eating twelve grapes or raisins to bring them luck for all twelve months of the coming year"
I wish you good things for 2021. It’s got to be better than this year, right?
Do you have a special New Year’s Day dinner? Share with us what it is.
by Vickie McDonough
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