Superstition has it that the first day of a new year is symbolic of how the rest of the year will play out. If you sleep late, you’ll do that throughout the year. If you are productive, happy and polite, you will be so for the rest of the year. In the same vein, what you eat on the first day of the year may determine what and how you will eat all year — and may also have a hand in what life may bring your way.
Some foods are said to symbolize abundance and good fortune: black-eyed peas because they are so plentiful; greens because they are the color of money; lentils because they are coin-shaped; cornbread because it is the color of gold; and fish because they swim in schools and their scales look like coins. Pork is said to represent progress because pigs move forward when they eat. Round cakes represent coming full circle and often have a trinket baked in them; whoever gets the trinket will have good luck. Long noodles represent longevity. Round fruits, especially those with lots of seeds such as pomegranates, symbolize fertility and abundance.
In the South they eat Hoppin’ John, collard greens and cornbread in keeping with the saying, “peas for pennies, green for dollars and cornbread for gold.” In Germany and Eastern Europe they eat pork and sauerkraut. In the Philippines they eat 12 round fruits, one for each month of the year. In Spain they eat one grape for each stroke of midnight. In Scandinavia they eat herring. Throughout Asia they eat long noodles, being careful not to break the noodles because that would be bad luck; in Japan it’s udon and ramen, while in China it’s lo mein.
In deciding what to eat come New Year’s Day, you may want to keep these ingredients in mind. Here are 46 recipes that include one or more of these symbols of good fortune.