While most Americans have their own New Year’s traditions — get sloppy drunk on Champagne, dress sloppy in cheap cardboard top hats and paper tiaras, and sloppily kiss someone — there’s an incredible score of rich food-related traditions from around the world.
In the mood for a year of luck and prosperity? Eat these foods!*
1. Grapes // Spain
In Spain — as well as former countries of the Spanish Empire — citizens ring in the new year by eating a dozen grapes at midnight.
Said to be eaten with each chime of the clock, the grapes are considered predictors of the coming year’s 12 months, with sweet grapes meaning a good month and a sour grape meaning a bad month.
2. Black-Eyed Peas // Southern United States
In the American South, black-eyed peas are supposedly considered lucky because of their resemblance to coins, especially when served with greens and cornbread, which represent paper money and gold.
For the best chance of luck, it’s suggested to eat 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day (also a good source of fiber, which helps).
3. Soba Noodles // Japan
A favorite of Japan, tradition has it that you should eat soba (aka buckwheat noodles) at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The dish then called Toshikoshi (“from one year to another”), requires the diner to look at the noodles, as they symbolize longevity, so the longer, the better.
4. Pomegranate // Eastern Europe
In countries like Turkey and Greece, pomegranates are cherished tokens of good luck and have been for centuries, maybe even millennia.
With the color of a vibrant human heart, symbolizing life and fertility, and plentiful seeds, representing prosperity, a pomegranate has everything there for a fresh start.
The tradition for New Year’s Eve is to throw pomegranates on the ground, and the more they pop open, the more abundance your home will have.
5. Lentils // Europe & South America
From Brazil to Italy (where this custom got started), lentils are celebrated for their lucky quality, given their supposedly coin-like appearance. They also appear plumper in water, which symbolizes growing wealth. Eating lentils at the beginning of a new year means prosperous times ahead.
6. Marzipan Pigs // Germany & Scandinavia
While people from Portugal to Cuba eat pork for luck during New Year’s Day celebrations, as a pig’s fat represents prosperity, there’s a sweeter version.
In Germany, and throughout Scandinavia, confections of marzipan shaped pigs are handed out for good luck.
7. Pickled Herring // Poland, Scandinavia
Fish are considered lucky for several reasons. They travel in schools and swim forward, representing prosperity and progress. Their scales’ glint also resemble that of coins. It’s a popular dish the world over, but pickled herring specifically being eaten at midnight is a noted New Year’s tradition.
*These traditions are certainly not limited to only the mentioned countries or regions.