Each New Year’s, revelers around the world chow down on specific foods to summon good luck for the next 365 days. While some traditions call for noodles and others call for fruit, all the edibles connote forward movement, prosperity and health. Whether or not you’re superstitious, take a look at our list of common celebratory eats. If no luck comes your way, at least you’ll go into the new year with a full belly.
1. Long Noodles
In China, Japan and other Asian countries, it’s customary to eat long noodles, signify longevity, on New Year’s Day. Since the noodles are never to be broken or shortened during the cooking process, the typical preparation for “Long-Life Noodles” is a stir-fry.
Pomegranates represent good luck in Turkey for many reasons: Their red color, which represents the human heart, denotes life and fertility; their medicinal properties represent health; and their abundant, round seeds represent prosperity—all things everyone hopes for in any fresh start.
3. Corn Bread
A favorite throughout the year, cornbread is especially venerated as a New Year’s treat in the southern United States. Why? Its color resembles that of gold. To ensure extra luck, some people add extra corn kernels, which are emblematic of golden nuggets.
4. Round Fruits
Though the number of pieces varies by region, eating any round fruit is a common New Year’s tradition. In the Philippines, the custom calls for 13, considered a lucky number; in Europe and the U.S., it calls for 12, which represents the months in a year. In both cases, their shape, which looks like a coin, and their sweetness are the common denominators.
5. Green Vegetables
From the coastal American South to Europe, people eat green leafy veggies—including kale, collards and cabbage—on New Year’s Day because of their color and appearance, which resembles paper cash. Belief has it, the more you eat, the more prosperous you’ll be (and the healthier, too!).
In some countries, including Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Austria, pigs symbolize progress. Some say it’s because these animals never move backward, while others believe it’s all in their feeding habits (they push their snouts forward along the ground when rooting for food). And it’s not limited to pork—foods shaped like pigs (think cutout cookies) count, too.
According to Doris Lum, a Chinese cuisine expert, the Chinese word for “fish” sounds like the word for “abundance,” one of the many reasons fish has become a go-to good luck food. Also, Rosemary Gong writes in Good Luck Life, her book on Chinese celebrations, that it’s important for the fish be served with the head and tail intact to ensure a good year, from start to finish.
8. Black-Eyed Peas
Considered good luck due to their penny-like appearance and abundance, these peas, enjoyed in the southern United States, are traditionally served in a dish called Hoppin’ John. On the day after New Year’s Day, leftover “Hoppin’ John” becomes “Skippin’ Jenny,” meant to demonstrate frugality and promote prosperity in the new year.
A popular New Year’s meal in Italy is Cotechino con Lenticchie (green lentils with sausage) because of the legume’s greenish color and coin-like appearance. Deeper into the myth: When cooked, lentils plump with water, symbolizing growing wealth. Lentils are also considered good luck in Hungary, where they’re preferred in a soup.
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