7 Most Popular Foods on New Year in the US
As New Year's Day approaches, people around the world will plan for the coming year, eager to get off to the best possible start! Many people will "eat for luck"-they plan to eat special foods that, by tradition, are supposed to bring them good luck.
Throughout history, people have eaten certain foods on New Year's Day, hoping to gain riches, love, or other kinds of good fortune during the rest of the year.
Read through the foods below to get a taste for what foods to serve and eat for New Year’s.
1. Hoppin' John
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.
Different folklore traces the history and the name of this meal, but the current dish has its roots in African and West Indian traditions and was most likely brought over by slaves to North America. A recipe for Hoppin' John appears as early as 1847 in Sarah Rutledge's "The Carolina Housewife" and has been reinterpreted over the centuries by home and professional chefs.
2. Black-Eyed Peas
Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a time-honored tradition. There are a few different reasons why they’re associated with luck on New Year’s Day. One theory anchors the tradition in the Civil War, when Union soldiers raided the Confederate army’s food supply, leaving behind only this bean. Another is anchored in African American history, where newly-freed slaves celebrated the January 1863 Emancipation Proclamation with dishes made of black-eyed peas—one of the few foods available to slaves. But other theories date the legume's lucky reputation all the way back to Ancient Egypt, suggesting that eating the pea—a vegetable readily available to even the poorest slaves—was a way to show humility to the gods.
According to some theorists, while chickens and turkeys scratch backward, a big buries his snout into the ground and moves forward—in the same direction you want to head in the New Year. Another reason is logistics: Pigs are traditionally slaughtered in late fall, which made pork an ideal choice to set aside for celebrating the New Year. Pork (and cabbage) eaten on New Year’s is a tradition that hails from Germany and Eastern Europe and was brought from there to America by people who settled in the United States. And the meat itself is fattier than other cuts of meat, making this New Year’s Eve food both tasty and a symbol of prosperity.
Right alongside the pork is often sauerkraut or some form of cabbage. This tradition also hails from Germany and Eastern Europe, and is, again, rooted in simple logistics: A late fall harvest coupled with a six-to-eight-week fermenting process means that sauerkraut is just about ready when New Year’s rolls around. But cabbage on New Year’s is also steeped in symbolism—the strands of cabbage in sauerkraut or coleslaw can symbolize long life, while cabbage can also symbolize money. For a sophisticated twist, try this sauerkraut made with caraway.
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.
Mix and match a few different New Year’s Eve food traditions with black-eyed peas, greens, and cornbread to make a fortune this year. As the Southern saying goes, “peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold".
Collard greens are a late crop mostly grown in the south, so they’re easy to find in the colder months. 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.
7. 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. In Mexico, grapes are eaten at midnight to symbolize the year ahead, and throughout the world, pomegranates, a symbol of fertility and birth, are eaten at the new year. A pomegranate-based cocktail is a sophisticated way to start the New Year on the right foot.
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