12 New Year's Foods That Supposedly Bring Good Fortune

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There is nothing quite like the global optimism that is shared in the remaining few hours on the 31st of December, awaiting a New Year. The air is practically heavy with hope, certain the incoming year will be better than the last. The New Year can often be a time to recommit to old values that we hold dear, make new promises to do better, and start again with a clean slate, even if it's only metaphorically. 

It is also quite an auspicious time of year, with many customary celebrations and superstitions based on wishes for good luck. In Brazil, those lucky enough to find themselves on a beach will jump over several waves. In Scotland, whoever is the first person to cross the threshold of a house after midnight, known as the first footing, must bring a gift that ensures good luck and prosperity comes to the household (via Babbel). 

And, as with any good holiday or festive celebration, food is guaranteed to play a part in the traditions. For those looking to manifest an extra bit of good luck for the New Year, here are twelve foods eaten around the world that are said to do just that. 


Residents in Spanish-speaking countries worldwide reach for uvas or grapes when the clock strikes midnight, eating them in quick succession with every chime marking the incoming year. Finishing all 12 by the last chime is considered an omen of good luck for the year ahead, per Atlas Obscura; the first sign of its effect might be not choking on the mouthful of fruit.

This tradition has several possible origins, from farmers in Alicante in the early 1900s looking to offload excess harvest to savvy residents of Madrid borrowing and adapting the tradition from the French, whose New Year's Eve customs include eating grapes accompanied by a glass of champagne on the last day of the year.

Like the Spanish, this tradition has traveled around the world and adapted to the culture of areas like Mexico and Peru. Much like party poppers or New Year's themed glasses, there, too, is an industry hoping to make a bit of money by conveniently offering pre-packed bags of 12 grapes, ensuring everyone has just the right amount to conjure up luck for the year ahead.

So strong is the tradition that the Spanish have worked to identify and develop the perfect grape with the thinnest skin, ideal for this New Year's Eve ritual. According to NPR, a pale and sweet varietal from the region of Alicante makes for the perfect product to pop whilst ringing in the New Year.

Black-eyed peas

Though now customarily eaten as a symbol of good luck, the history of the pea's journey to the U.S. is a byproduct of the West African slave trade. The pea was brought along on ships to feed the enslaved peoples, according to the Washington Post. Alongside the rice crops which Africans were being forced to tend, black-eyed pea crops were also planted, often in the gardens of the enslaved. The two crops were then eaten together as was customarily done in West Africa, as well as also used to feed animals (via Modern Farmer). Originally associated with poverty and enslavement, this connection shifted during the Civil War when the Confederate Army turned to black-eyed peas out of desperation. 

The symbolism of black-eyed peas is not limited to New Year's Eve alone. This dish, eaten alongside collard greens, is also enjoyed by many African-American communities during the celebration of Kwanzaa, which takes place this year from December 26th through New Year's Day. According to Southern Living, black-eyed peas are also associated with symbolic eating around Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).

You can however find them on New Year's in a dish called hoppin' John, which also includes rice and smoked pork, typically bacon. And just as enslaved people fought and persevered for better days, so has a traditional food become a symbol of hope and good fortune.


If you've decided to try your hand at the Southern and African American tradition of hoppin' John for New Year's Day, you'd do well to make a batch of collard greens alongside; the two go hand in hand!

According to Southern Living, traditions of the American South are steeped in superstitions that go back generations. This includes a healthy helping of black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year's Day to welcome good luck and good fortune for the year ahead. Variations of how these ingredients are served may differ between regions, families, and even from generation to generation within the same family. 

Actress Tia Mowry's secret ingredient is now her family's favorite way to make the dish, but it differs from her grandmother's. A personal change in how you prepare a simple dish goes to highlight the point that cooking techniques are not only influenced by tradition but also by individual taste. Symbolically greens eaten during this time are associated with money, financial wealth, and prosperity. In this economy, we'll have two helpings, please.


In many Mexican, South and Central American, and Indigenous communities, corn is not just a prevalent ingredient within the cuisine but has a special and often sacred significance; it is a symbol of life, fertility, and creation (via Edible Capital District). According to the Smithsonian Magazine, corn or maize is considered "one of the world's most vital crops from Mexico to South America." Its history of being grown and farmed dates back over 9,000 years.

Given the longstanding history and significance of this plant for many, it is of little surprise that tamales — a delicious food traditionally made with a masa filling mixed with meat, vegetables, or beans, which are then wrapped in corn husks and steamed — are eaten throughout many countries and cultures around the New Year, as a symbol of luck and prosperity for the year ahead.

Luis Martinez explains the secondary reason behind making tamales to Southern Kitchen; he says that alongside hopes for personal prosperity, making tamales at the end of corn's growing season pays tribute to the longstanding traditions of using corn and other ancient foodways. The tamales carry with them hopes of abundance and a successful new growing season so that the cycle continues to be repeated.


The Dutch are masterful at stoking feelings of coziness, comfort, and cheer during this time of year. It probably has something to do with their cold dark winters and the need to counteract its potential negative impact on mental health (via Dutch Review). It's no wonder these feelings of coziness and conviviality, known as "hygge," is a cultural value, one that has caught on worldwide.

Nothing says cozy in the wintertime like a warm drink and baked treat, which is why oliebollen, which translates to mean oil balls, are a common treat or dessert. According to the Dutch Review, these doughy balls of goodness are made with sweet raisins, cinnamon, or even apples, then dusted with powdered sugar. They are customarily enjoyed along with a glass of sparkling champagne on New Year's Eve.

Their origins are a bit murky. There are thoughts that, like some holiday Hanukkah foods, oliebollen traversed the globe via Sephardic Jews who were forced out of their Spanish and Portuguese homes during the Inquisition. Others believe this was a pagan tradition kept by Germanic groups, who would eat the oil-laden treats to ensure their residual slick of oil would prevent any bad spirits from sticking (via SBS).

No matter where they come from, New Year's Eve in the Netherlands is not complete without them.

Soba Noodles

Across many Asian communities, long noodles are eaten symbolically during Lunar New Year to symbolize a long life. We think noodles are too good to be limited to just one celebration, and thankfully the Japanese feel the same way.

Made from buckwheat, soba noodles are as nutritious as they are adaptable and can be eaten either warm or cold. They are often served either a broth or dipping sauces, depending on their preferred temperature, and have been eaten within Japanese culture as part of a New Year's Eve tradition for hundreds of years (via Savor Japan).

Encouraging foods, as well as customs, are a large part of Japanese culture, and across many other Asian cultures too, which explains the symbolic eating that takes place during Lunar New Year and on other occasions as well. Soba noodles, in particular, are made from a sturdy, hardy plant eaten to symbolize stability in the year ahead. According to Japanese customs, you can increase your chances of good luck and prosperity (and delight your taste buds simultaneously) by toping your soba noodles with scallions, fried tofu, or seafood. We can't think of a better reason to make this cold soba noodle salad to ring in the New Year.

King cake

In practically any other circumstance we can think of, the idea of finding a plastic baby baked into a slice of cake would send us screaming for the hills (or at least abstaining from dessert). But in this instance, it's a good omen for the year ahead. While many turn to New Year's resolutions and good intentions for the year ahead, it is also possible to turn to cake, as many Catholic countries and communities do to celebrate Epiphany, which takes place 12 days after Christmas, on January 6th (via Better Homes and Gardens).

A king cake, originally considered a French tradition, made its way to the U.S. in the late 1800s. The cakes now vary; the French version is often made with a flaky pastry and a sweet filling, as in this galette des rois recipe. The king cakes in New Orleans will traditionally be circular, sweet, and spongy like brioche and decorated with food coloring and sprinkles (via Southern Living). It is made to commemorate the three kings in Bethlehem who visited baby Jesus. What was once a gold coin and now a plastic baby and gets baked into the cake to represent Jesus. Whoever finds the baby in their slice has an extra slice of good fortune.

While many bakeries will have a signature king cake on offer, you can also make your king cake recipe, adding a baby, a coin, or whatever you like inside.


There are many different kinds of lentils, cooked in a variety of ways and eaten all over the world. In Italy, they are considered to be especially lucky and are eaten as part of the New Year's festivities, per La Cucina Italiana. Their round shape, much like a coin, is synonymous with prosperity.

As part of the Cena di Capodanno or New Year's feast, slow-cooked lentils are often served under a rich, spice-heavy, traditional Italian sausage called cotechino. They are often served alongside zampone— a pig's trotter stuffed with sausage meat— completing the hearty and warming meal (via Pasta Evangelists).  

Pork is also associated with good luck, meaning the potential for luck produced through eating the dish is twice as strong. It's also the perfect comforting dish to eat before a long evening of drinking, dancing, and celebrating, which is probably why it remains a firm favorite in a culture known for its late-night dining, entertaining, and lifestyle. 


According to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, cabbage's association with good luck, wealth, and prosperity originated in Germany and Ireland. Like many other circular foods on this list, the vegetable's rounded form is also associated with good luck as well as the cyclical nature of the seasons. Though there are wide cabbage varieties to choose from, much like collard greens, the green hue of savoy or pointed cabbage is also associated with money or wealth.

When cabbage is shredded in dishes like coleslaw or sauerkraut, the strands of the brassica become ripe for further symbolism — either referencing the length of each strand as a symbol of long life or the number of strands consumed as a sign of wealth or prosperity collected in the year ahead (via Reader's Digest).

According to Reader's Digest, the specific pairing of pork and cabbage originated in Germany before making its way to the U.S. in the 17th century alongside German immigrants. The pairing is also popular in many parts of Eastern Europe, on New Year's eve and throughout the year, with dishes like holubtsi, a Ukrainian stuffed cabbage roll.


The symbolic eating of pomegranate seeds is nothing new; it has existed in literature from Greek mythology to the bible, per My Jewish Learning, crossing cultures, and customs. Pomegranates might just be one of the most popular food items there is! They're included in Persian New Year (Nowruz) and Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and play a part in a variety of religious texts and art as well as cultural mythologies (via Taste Iran). The seeds have come to symbolize fertility and wisdom, not to mention pomegranates are rich in antioxidants and add a delicious sweet and tart burst of flavor to any dish. What can't the pomegranate do, we ask — other than be opened without creating a bit of a mess.

And, as it turns out, that mess is actually a sign of good luck! According to Greek Boston, some Greek Orthodox New Year's traditions also revolve around this key attribute of the pomegranate. On New Year's, Greek Orthodox households will choose one person to intentionally smash a pomegranate against their front door as part of a traditional and highly auspicious way to ring in the New Year — the farther the jewel-colored seeds and juices fly, the more luck coming your way! Next time you make a mess when opening up your pomegranate, perhaps you should consider it a sign of good luck for future endeavors.


Pork is eaten in a variety of ways, from sausages to smoked to suckled, as part of New Year's celebrations across the world. According to Atlas Obscura, this widespread traditional practice has to do with how pigs root, always moving in a forward direction rather than standing still or moving backward. During a time when resolutions and plans for the future often involve progression, it's no wonder that many cultures choose to include pork in their traditional meal. Also, pork can be pretty delicious and versatile, too.

Filipino celebrations will include a traditional suckling roast pig called a lechón. It's a delicious way to ring in the New Year and immerse yourself in Filipino cuisine's vibrant and rich flavors and traditions. This will take the form of a pork and sauerkraut dish in Germany, as in other Eastern European countries, too (via Readers Digest). Italians often ring in the New Year by eating a salty traditional sausage called cotechino, often over slow-cooked lentils as part of their symbolic (and delicious) meal, per Web Food Culture. And for many Black Americans, as well as in the American South, New Year's isn't New Year's without a lucky plate of black-eyed peas with bacon and greens.

Pickled Herring

According to many experts, we should all be incorporating oily fish like herring, sardines, and anchovies in more recipes. Our diets can benefit from their many health-boosting properties, like omega-3 fatty acids, which can help boost brain function. For Norwegians, this isn't news. They include foods like pickled herring in their everyday diets. Pickled herring is also a mainstay in Norwegian New Year's celebrations. It symbolizes luck and good fortune in addition to its many health benefits. Not just for Norwegians either, pickled fish is a much-loved preparation in a variety of countries across Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany. However, the Norwegians seem to be the most committed to the New Year's tradition (via The Take Out).

Fish, especially when served whole, is associated with abundance, eaten symbolically during many Lunar New Year feasts and festivities. "Fish have always been a loaded fertility symbol because they produce multiple eggs at one time," food historian Betty Fussell tells Smithsonian Magazine. One of the many reasons we all should be eating more fish.