Eating for a lucky year

Your New Year’s resolution might have you eating greens and beans to start 2013 in a healthy way – but a quick internet search shows it’s also traditional.

Nearly every article about what to eat on New Year’s Day includes black-eyed peas and greens.  The peas represent good luck.  And since the greens look like folded money, they represent good fortune and prosperity.

According to Epicurious.com, the Danish make stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, the Germans eat sauerkraut, and in the American south, collards are the green of choice.

Similar black-eyed peas, it’s traditional in many cultures to eat lentils and beans on New Year's Day.  The small beans are said to look like coins, and represent good fortune.  Rodale.com says Italians usually pair lentils with sausage or pork.

Pork is on many a list of traditional way to start the year.  But apparently, it’s only lucky if it’s eaten with sauerkraut.  Since pigs root forward, they represent moving forward in the New Year.  The long strands of sauerkraut symbolize long life.

Many websites also highlight the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight.  Each grape represents a different month.  For example, if your third grape is sour, March could be a difficult month for you.  This idea reportedly dates back to 1909 when Spanish wine makers had a grape surplus, and needed a creative way to sell them.  Sounds like they had a good marketing plan – Epicurious.com says people in Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, and other southern countries have all picked up on the tradition.

Lastly, fish is a natural choice to bring in the New Year because it swims upstream, which makes a nice metaphor. The Germans and Poles, as well as various southern cultures, eat pickled herring on New Year's Day for good luck.  The tradition makes sense: before refrigeration and modern transportation, cod could be preserved and shipped to the Mediterranean and as far as North Africa and the Caribbean.

There are some foods you might want to avoid on New Year’s(and not just because of a hangover.)

Lobster move backwards and could lead to setbacks. Epicurious.com says 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.

Oh, and it’s traditional in a variety of cultures to leave a little of each food on your plate, to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year.

Hope you enjoy whatever culinary delights come your way on January 1, and wishing you a happy and healthy 2013!

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