Can you believe it’s almost 2017? New Years is often thought of as a time for renewed hope, and to focus on new goals and opportunities. Many cultures believe the key to a Happy New Year is beginning with New Years lucky foods.
- Grapes – Eat twelve grapes, one for each chime of a clock. This tradition supposedly started in 1909 by grape growers who wanted to cut down on a surplus of grapes. The grape ritual is said to guarantee sweetness and fortune in the year ahead. Each grape follows the month – so your first grape represents January, 2nd February, etc. If you happen to get a sour grape along the way, it is said to predict that month will be a challenging one in 2017. In Portugal & Cuba, celebrants make a special wish for each grape. In Spain, the grape ritual is often followed by parties that last into the next morning, and end with breakfast. Some variation of the grape tradition are found in many other Spanish speaking countries.
- Round fruits such as oranges and pomegranates are believed to also symbolize coins and bring a prosperous New Year. Mandarin oranges and tangerines are the most popular fruit in China on New Year’s because of their golden color and they are supposed to represent wealth and good luck. In Vietnam red is a lucky color so watermelon is often served. In Greece they smash a pomegranate at the entrance of the house – the further the seeds spread the better the luck for the family. In some countries people suck on a few pomegranate seeds and then wrap them in wax paper or a small packet and keep them in their purses or wallets to ensure money year round. Figs are said to be a symbol of fertility. If you want to create a “lucky” centerpiece for your New Year’s party, put a bowl of pomegranate and citrus fruits on your dining room table.
- Beans: Why eat black eyed peas or other beans on New Years? Eating beans on New Years is considered good luck. The theory is that because they swell as you cook them, that beans symbolize prosperity. Black eyed-peas are the most popular beans eaten on New Years, followed by green lentils. The lentils round shape is said to represent coins and green for the color of money. In Italy, people often eat green lentils with sausages (cotechino con lentichhie.) In Puerto Rico they will often make rice and beans (Arroz con gandules.) In Brazil they have lentil beans and rice. In Japan black beans are often a side dish on New Year’s and it’s said that they will ensure health in the coming year. They are said to bring about not only good fortune, but humility as well.As for black eyed peas, you will find the all over the world on New Years. In Portugal black eyed peas are served with boiled cod and potatoes. In Egypt they cook the a bean stew out of black eyed peas called Lobya served with Egyptian rice. In Vietnam black eye peas are used to make sweet rice & bean pudding. In Colombia they make breakfast fritters called bunuelos de frijol de cabecita negro. Black eyed peas are a staple in many Greek foods. For New Years they are slow cooked with olive oil, onions, garlic, tomatoes and wild greens. In many middle Eastern countries including Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, they prepare green black-eyed peas (called lobya,) similar to the Greecian dish. In Guayana, they make black eye peas “cook up” rice made with a coconut broth, fried fish and plantains. According to tradition, cook-up rice should be the first thing eaten in the New Year for good luck. Black eyed peas, corn bread and collard greens are traditional Southern dishes in the U.S., as is Hoppin’ John. As you can see the tradition of eating beans, specifically black eyed peas, is popular throughout several countries.
- Greens are said to “Show you the money!” Cooked collard, spinach, cabbage and kale are all said to represent paper money. Germans eat lots of sauerkraut, Danish like their kale sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar while in the U.S., collards are quite popular. Make sure and pile it on….the more greens you eat, the more fortune (and fiber) you will have in the coming year.
- If you eat meat, pick pork over chicken or beef on New Year day, because pigs dig with their snout, representing forward movement or progress, while chickens and turkeys scratch backward, and cows stand still (we all want to move forward, not backwards or stay in the same place in the New Year!) If you are the cook in the house, considering putting pork or ham in your black eyed peas or lentils for added flavor. Many cultures including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and Ireland eat pork not only because of the believe of moving forward, but fatty meat is also symbolic of fattening their wallets.
- Fish is a good choice as well since most swim forward, and the scales are believed to symbolize silver. Another theory is that since many fish swim in schools and lay lots of eggs at one time, it is a sign of abundance. I personally would stay away from bottom dwellers like cat fish, just in case that means something will hold you down in the New Year (just a thought.) Pickled herring, salted cod, sardines and carp are popular dishes on New Year’s in European and Scandinavian countries. In Germany some people actually will put fish scales in their wallet as it’s believed to bring about good luck. The Japanese also have fish for prosperity and wealth, as well as shrimp for a long life and herring roe for fertility. In some countries the fish is served whole (head and tail,) symbolizing the end of one year and the beginning of another. No lobster or crab – remember they walk sideways and backwards. If you want seafood other than fish, shrimp, clams, mussels and oysters are all good choices.
- Eat noodles for longevity. In China the New Year’s meal always includes noodles….remember, you need a big pot as you want to boil them whole so they are long. Japan has the same belief and serve long toshikoshi soba noodles on New Year’s Day. Traditionally they eat them at midnight on New Year’s Eve and the longer the noodles are the better.
- Grains: Rice, quinoa, risotto, barley and other starches symbolize abundance since they swell when cooked.
- Sweets: St. Basil’s bread. Known as vasilopita in Greece, St. Basil’s bread plays an important role in Greek New Year’s traditions. The bread itself is sweet, and is baked with a coin hidden in it. At midnight, Greek families turn off the light, and the head of the household slices the vasilopita and shares it among the family. The family member who receives the piece of bread with the coin inside of it is guaranteed to have good luck in the New Year. France also serves a cake with a coin or small ceramic inside called King’s cake. Donuts and fritters are popular in Eastern Europe. In Italy many make struffoli which is a dozen small donut like balls placed in a circle and held together by honey, and topped with candied fruit and powdered sugar.
- Round Foods: These foods represent the year coming “full circle.” Donuts, cookies, cakes, pancakes, bagels, quiche, quesadillas and pizzas that are in the shape of a “ring” are said to symbolize the year coming full circle. Of course for healthier options you can opt for melon balls, sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, potatoes and other veggies sliced in circles.
- Corn bread: Said to symbolize gold, cornbread is a popular New Years southern tradition. To ensure extra luck, some people add extra corn kernels, which are emblematic of golden nuggets.
- Toast with champagne or prosecco. In some cultures they suggest you take 3 short hops without spilling your drink and then pour throw the champagne behind you to put all the bad stuff in the past. If your champagne lands on someone else – no problem as that is supposed to mean good lucky. Perhaps a bottle of cheap champagne for throwing over your shoulder and a nice bottle for the toast?
New Years APPETIZERS:
No chicken wings or mini meatballs on this menu! Remember that chickens scratch backwards and cows stay still, so avoid both New Year’s Eve or New Year’s day. Plan appetizers with eggs, veggies, bacon, ham, pork, fish, shrimp or cheese. Figs, grapes and pomegranate are also good options.
So just think of your favorite appetizers that include at least one of these lucky foods.
Here are some popular appetizer options that include 1 or more New Years lucky foods:
- Pigs in a blanket
- Deviled eggs
- Quiche Lorraine
- Fish dip
- Stuffed mushrooms
- Sausage, peppers & onions
- Baked brie / brie cups
- Cheese dip or cheese platter
- Shrimp cocktail
- Spinach and artichoke dip
- Bacon wrapped dates
- Asparagus wrapped with proscuitto
- Fettucine alfredo (dont forget to leave noodles whole for luck)
- Fish tacos
- Texas caviar
- Antipasto platter with prosciutto, capicola, salami, cheeses, roasted peppers and olives (again things that are round are good luck, as well as pork.)
- Shrimp or pork dumplings
- Shrimp or fish quesadillas
- Spicy bean salsa
- Jalepeno poppers
- Black-eyed pea nachos | Texas Caviar
- Smoked salmon on cucumber with creme fraiche
- Herring in cream sauce
- Cuban tamales
Vegetarian appetizer options include:
- Bean dips
- Caked brie
- Stuffed cherry tomatoes
- Kale chips
- Stuffed dates
- Stuffed portobello mushrooms, peppers or cabbage
- Soba noodles with veggies & tofu
- Baked onion dip
- Grape & ricotta crostini with roasted hazelnuts
- Quinoa & kale phyllo cups with pomegranate seeds
For a MAIN DISH:
In our house you typically get a bowl of white rice with black eyed peas (made with both ham and pork,) along with a side of greens and corn bread. Remember anything made with corn meal is believed to represent good fortune because of it’s golden color.
Hoppin’ John is a popular choice because you can mix in rice, pork, greens and beans – all on the approved lucky foods list. In a Spanish household, another dish would be Congri which is white rice, black beans and pork. If you don’t like black eyed peas, lentils are also popular due to their green color. Any rice, including risotto are all good options as well, since they swell when you cook them, which represents abundance in the New Year.
Don’t forget about noodles. There are tons of recipes that call for noodles – just don’t cut the noodles – boil and serve them whole which represents long life.
Fish…all fish are a good main course except for catfish since they are bottom dwellers. Remember that the fish scales represent silver and fish swim forward good symbols for the new year. If you are only cooking for 1 or 2 people, fish tacos are quick and easy. Remember no turkey, chicken, steak, lamb, lobster or crab.
So to recap, here are some New Years lucky foods dinner and side dish ideas:
- Warm kale and lentil salad
- Pork Tenderloin with sauerkraut
- Honey baked ham
- Shrimp stir fry (with long noodles such as soba)
- Fish tacos with slaw
- Enchilado de camarones (shrimp in Cuban tomato sauce)
- Shrimp or pork lettuce wraps
- Soy and ginger glazed salmon
- Black eyed peas with collard greens
- Cuban style lentils
- Lentil and rice salad
- Hoppin John
- Texas Caviar
- Black beans
- 15 bean soup
- (Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s) Black Cod with Miso
- Kielbasa with sauerkraut
- Roast pig
- Corn bread
- Southern style collard greens
- Shrimp and grits
- Portobello mushrooms stuffed with kale and rice
- Pork chops with onions, apples and cabbage
- Oven roasted whole red snapper
- Mushroom risotto
- Cabbage rolls
- Tuna stuffed peppers
- Spicy chili lentils
- Braised pork with apples, onions & cabbage
- Shrimp noodle bowl with kale
SOUPS: In the mood for soup? Make a fish stew, seafood boullabaisse or minestrone soup with lots of beans and veggies in it. You can also include Italian or Andouille sausage. Ribollita is a popular bean and veggie stew in Tuscany. Perhaps a meatless chili with several types of beans or a hearty mushroom soup. In Romania, they make Ciroba de Varza, which is cabbage soup.
Want to order out? For Chinese order a pork fried rice or pork lo mein. BBQ – have ribs or pulled pork. Italian – have pasta with sausage, cheese lasagna or a pepperoni and sausage pizza. Of course cheese pizza works too, I just try to keep sneaking that pig in there, since so many cultures believe it brings good luck both because it roots forward, which we all want to progress in the New Year, and also because their fatty meat is said to be symbolic for a fat wallet.
Round cakes, cookies, donuts and pies all work. If you want to impress, make some chocolate truffles. Looking for more healthy, try Almond Butter Balls.
If you didn’t eat enough at the stroke of midnight and are in the mood for breakfast, stay away from omelets and go for round shaped items like donuts, crepes, pancakes or bagels. (round representing coins again.) Of course smoked salmon or white fish on your bagels combines the good luck from fish along with your round bagel.
We hope you enjoy these fun ideas, and wish you good fortune in the new year!