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Traditional New Year Foods for Good Luck and Wealth

By Barbara Heimlich
Source: History.com, Thrillist, Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens

New Year’s Traditions and Celebrations Around the World (including Connecticut)

In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 31st —New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1st. Revelers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year.

In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight.  The grapes represent the 12 months within a calendar year. It is believed that the luck you’ll possess each month is dependent on the sweetness of the grapes; if you come across any tart grapes, then make sure to prepare yourself for a bumpy month that corresponds with the sour grape you consumed.

In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.  Lentils are eaten because the tiny legumes are said to look like little coins, which will bring prosperity in the coming year. From Italy, to the Czech Republic, to Brazil—whether prepared in stew, served with pork, or eaten over rice—lentils might help you pad out your bank account in the progressing months.

A major New Year’s food tradition in the American South, Hoppin’ John is a dish of pork-flavored field peas or black-eyed peas (symbolizing coins) and rice, frequently served with collards or other cooked greens (as they’re the color of money) and cornbread (the color of gold). The dish is said to bring good luck in the New Year.

Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries.  Pigs are animals that root forward as they sniff out and eat food, and therefore emblematic of progress in the year. The fattiness of pork is also related to luxury and wealth, so don’t hesitate to fry up some bacon to start off the new year.  According to some theorists, chickens, turkeys, and lobsters, scratch backward for food, a pig buries his snout into the ground and moves forward—in the same direction you want to head in the new year.

Cabbage on New Year’s is also steeped in symbolism—the strands of cabbage in sauerkraut or coleslaw can symbolize long life, while cabbage, and other greens symbolize money and prosperity.

Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere.  Ring-shaped cakes—sometimes with trinkets baked inside—are a symbol of coming full circle, making them a perfect New Year’s food. This tradition stems from the Greeks, who make a traditional Vasilopita for New Year’s Eve with a hidden coin baked inside.  In the South there is the Kings Cake, baked with a “baby” inside for good luck.

In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

And what do we eat in Connecticut?  According to Better Homes and Gardens, a traditional New Year’s Eve Menu includes a vegetable soup, an Old Fashioned cocktail, and classic honey-glazed ham with individual creamy mashed potato pots, then finish off with a traditional apple pie!!!

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