Just a few hours from the time I post this blog entry, many of us will be clinking classes, sipping bubbly, blowing noise makers and exchanging big kisses with the one we love. Some of us might be zonked out on the couch before the ball drops or tucked into our cozy beds knowing we’ll feel better in the morning.
Having spent my holiday “vacation” trying to recover from influenza, I’ll probably be one of the couch potatoes tonight. But that doesn’t mean we can’t ALL partake in some lucky food tonight or tomorrow to get the new year off to an auspicious start.
Here are some foods traditionally considered to be lucky:
1. Greens are one of the most well-known lucky foods, which happens to be pretty convenient because you can still find some nice greens in the dead of winter. Greens are thought to be lucky because they resemble money. It’s as simple as that. So get yourself a big mess of collards going on the stove, saute some kale, cook a bunch of cabbage or add a handful of greens to a hot pot of soup such as this New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Pea Soup. You’ll feel richer even if you aren’t.
2. Legumes. Beans, peas, lentils all fall into this category and are considered lucky because they resemble coins. So there we go with the money thing again, but considering the state of the economy, perhaps we should all eat double helpings of the greens and beans this New Year. Different beans are consumed for luck in different parts of the world. According to Epicurious, they eat sausages and green lentils just after midnight in Italy, something like split pea soup with sausage in Germany, and lentil soup or lentils with rice in Brazil. Here in the south, we love to get our luck from black-eyed peas, those deliciously earthy little legumes.
3. Noodles. The longer, the better. At midnight in Japan, they eat soba noodles, which symbolize longevity. Do not break the noodle until the whole thing is in your mouth. If you don’t want to make an Asian dish, make spaghetti and let the kids have fun slurping up the noodles without breaking them.
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4. Grapes. In Spain, they have the coolest tradition involving grapes. They eat twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight, with the goal being to consume one grape for every stroke of the clock and finish them all at the twelfth strike. Each grape represents a month of the year, so if the fifth grape is particularly sweet and the sixth is sour, you can look forward to May but be a little wary about June. From what I’ve read, this tradition was started by grape farmers who wanted to sell more grapes, so I wouldn’t worry TOO much about the sour grapes.
5. Pork. Yes indeed, pigs go rooting in the soil with their snouts and are therefore always moving forward, or so it seems. That’s why pigs represent forward progress and their fatty flesh is considered the perfect way to usher in a new year rich with blessings. This is why a ham hock in your greens or legumes is the perfect way to combine two lucky foods!
6. Cornbread. Symbolizes gold, money, prosperity. Delicious with the greens and ham hocks, in my humble opinion.
7. Fish. There are fans of fish in every country. It has been a popular protein for eons. In the past, it was easier to preserve and transport. Fish almost always swim forward and many hang out in schools, so they bring to mind progress and abundance. The Catholic faith frowns upon red meat on holidays, so fish is a perfect replacement. For these reasons and many others, fish is considered a lucky food. In Germany, some folks put fish scales in their wallets for luck. I’d rather have greenbacks in my wallet, but to each his own.
8. Cakes, particularly round-shaped cakes, are big throughout the holiday season all over the world. I always thought that’s just because we like to gorge ourselves on sweets during the holidays, but apparently there’s more to it. As we have already learned, any food that remotely looks like money is a lucky bet for New Year’s. And round cakes fit the bill. Ring-shaped treats such as doughnuts are also lucky because they indicate that we have come full-circle.
9. Pomegranates are consumed in some Mediterranean countries because they symbolize abundance and fertility. If you want to expand your family in 2013, have a pomegranate cocktail or sprinkle some pom seeds in a salad.
No matter what you eat as we say goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013, I wish you all a New Year blessed with health, happiness and prosperity!