Happy New Year’s everyone! My family’s always had a tradition of eating certain foods on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck in the new year. Here’s a list of foods to eat and not to eat on New Year’s Day and a recipe for Hoppin’ John, which includes most of the traditional good luck foods:
While collard greens are the green of choice in the southern United States, all kinds of cooked greens are consumed on New Year’s day across the world, including cabbage collards, kale, and chard. The green leaves look like folded money and are considered symbolic of economic fortune. It’s believed that the more greens one eats the larger one’s fortune next year.
Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money, since they are thought to look like coins. In Italy, it’s customary to eat sausages and green lentils, just after midnight. Germans also partner legumes and pork, usually lentil or split pea soup with sausage. In Brazil, the first meal of the New Year is usually lentil soup or lentils and rice, and in Japan, its traditional to eat sweet black beans.
In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas in a dish called hoppin’ john (see recipe below). Legend has it that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky.
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.
The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. Some say it’s because the pig never moves backward. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Roast suckling pig is served for New Year’s in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria. Different pork dishes such as pig’s feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.
Cornbread is a favorite New Year’s Day food in the southern United States since its color resembles gold. To ensure extra luck, some people add extra corn kernels, which are symbolic of gold nuggets.
What Not to Eat
In addition to the traditional lucky foods, there are also a few to avoid. Lobster is a bad idea because lobsters move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.
Hoppin John Soup (serves 2)
- 1 can black eyed peas
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/3 cup finely chopped country ham or Canadian bacon
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 celery rib, diced
- 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 4 oz. fresh collard greens, trimmed and finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon hot sauce or sriracha
- 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup brown rice
1. Prepare rice according to package instructions.
2. Add oil to Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté ham, crushed red pepper, garlic, jalapeño, carrot, celery, and onion for about 1o minutes or until vegetables are tender.
3. Add black eyed peas, 1 cup vegetable broth, collards, hot sauce, 1 1/2 cups water, and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
4. Stir in vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf and serve over rice.