New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are full of traditions to ensure a lucky start to the next year. If you want to ensure a particularly lucky year, you could incorporate all of the foods considered lucky around the world. Or, pick your favorite, cross your fingers, and hope that your new year is a good one.
Grapes (Portugal and Spain)
Grapes are the lucky food of choice in Spain, Portugal, and much of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries in South America. In Spain, revelers must consume 12 grapes, one at a time, in the first 12 seconds of the new year. In South American countries, celebrants must consume 12 grapes before the clock tolls midnight. Each grape represents a different month of the new year, so a sour fifth grape might mean that May will be a difficult month. Peruvians go one step further by eating a thirteenth grape after the clock rolls over to the next year.
Pork (Most of the Western World)
For centuries, pigs and pork have been a symbol of good luck and a traditional food to eat on New Year's Day. In the European Middle Ages, wild pigs were caught, slaughtered, and roasted on New Year's Day.
Later, pigs or pork were given as presents to other families to signify wealth and prosperity. Also, pigs root by moving forward, therefore much of the Western world eats pork to signify moving forward into the new year. In Cuba, people eat roast suckling pig whereas Swedes prefer roasted pigs' feet. Eastern Europeans often eat spit-roasted pig or roast pork loin.
Marzipan Pigs (Germany)
Germans go one step further with the pork concept. There, marzipan pigs known as Glücksschwein (lucky pigs) are given at New Year's to bring good luck in the coming year.
Cooked Greens (Most of the Western World)
Cooked greens resemble folded paper money (or "greenbacks," which is slang for money) and some believe that eating them will bring good fortune in the coming year. In the Southeastern United States, for example, braised collard greens are a traditional part of a New Year's Day meal.
Gold-Colored Foods (South America and Asia)
In South America and Asia, people consume gold-colored foods to bring in good fortune in the new year. For example, Peruvians eat papa a la huancaína, which are yellow potatoes tinted with turmeric or saffron and boiled in a spicy, creamy sauce. Chinese families eat oranges and, in the Southern United States, people eat golden cornbread. Golden lentils are another popular New Year's dish around the world.
Hoppin' John (American Southeast)
In the American Southeast, people eat black-eyed peas mixed with rice and bell peppers on New Year's Day. This dish is known as Hoppin' John when eaten on January 1. If eaten on January 2, it's called Skippin' Jenny and is thought to bring even more luck because stretching out the meal for two days is especially frugal. The black-eyed peas symbolize luck and prosperity because they resemble coins and there are many of them. Southerners believe that it's important to eat many black-eyed peas for good luck in the new year.