Lentils & Luck: Oh, What to Eat on New Year’s Day?

Happy New Year!  Happy New Decade!

Nonni's handwritten cookbook is filled with family recipes and pictures, but no lentils.

My grandmother always kicked off the new year with a huge vat of lentil soup.  “It brings good luck,” she’d say.  But I was out of luck because I didn’t like lentil soup, and had to make do (suffer with me a moment) with plates full of perfection in the form of her meatballs and brasciole.  Mmm, my mouth waters thinking of them now!

I still think of her lentil soup every New Year’s Day, and considered making it this year even though I’m still not a fan.  I looked through the cookbook she put together for her family, but alas!  No lentil soup!  Then I wondered what else people eat on New Year’s Day for luck, prosperity, good health, etc.  Here’s what I found:

In the Southern U.S., it’s a tradition to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for prosperity.  Nicole from Pinch My Salt, one of my favorite food blogs, shares her recipe for Smoky Spiced Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon.

It’s an Asian tradition to eat long noodles, a symbol of long life on New Year’s Day.  Just remember, you’re not supposed to break the noodle before eating it.  From Cooking with Alison, here’s a delicious recipe for Sesame Noodle Salad.

In Germany, Ireland, and parts of the U.S., folded greens symbolize money and eating cabbage is thought to bring good fortune and prosperity. At The Giant Cabbage, Cherie Stihler has collected more than 200 recipes.  That’s a lot of cabbage!

Greece and Turkey associate pomegranates with abundance and fertility. I associate them with delicious.  Just watching the opening photos on the California Pomegranates site made me hungry for the succulent little ruby red gems.

Throughout North America, Asia, and Europe, people eat fish to celebrate the new year.  Fish swim forward so they are associated with forward momentum, and since they swim in schools, they symbolize abundance and community.  Slow Roasted Salmon with Cabbage, Bacon, and Dill from SeriousEats.com covers a couple of the lucky New Year’s food groups and looks gorgeous!

Homer Simpson and a donutFinally, we have the Dutch, who believe the shape of a ring symbolizes coming full circle, and so on New Year’s Day they eat donuts.

What about you?  Do you have any New Year’s Day food traditions?  Want to go Dutch with me today?  Mmmm, donuts!

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4 thoughts on “Lentils & Luck: Oh, What to Eat on New Year’s Day?

  1. In the south each black-eyed pea you eat is supposed to bring in a dollar. I’m off to get cookin’. Cha-ching!

    Happy New Year, Olivia. 😉

  2. Fantastic first post of the year Olivia!
    We’re on the northern fringes of the south, I guess you could say the “end of the southern area”, or whatever…
    We do eat the black-eyed peas, (and that recipe looks scrumptious – thank you for sharing it!), as well as cooked cabbage, (smells up the house but oh is that taste worth it!), soup beans made with the ham bone from Christmas dinner, (I think my mom just “threw this in” when I was growing up because we had it so often, not sure if it’s supposed to bring good luck or not), mashed potatoes, and cornbread, (also “extras”). Gosh, my mouth is watering just thinking about dinner – I’d better go make sure I have everything to cook this evening!

    Lou, I’d not heard the dollar thing about black-eyed peas, but I’ll certainly be eating more than I would have. 🙂 Thanks!

    Happy new year to you!

  3. So looks like you have your work cut out for you with a post a day…good luck.
    Robyn is making something called “Hopping John” which is rice with blackbeans, ham and lots of other yummy stuff. A Mississippian delicacy.
    I lived in Holland for many years before coming to the states and they eat something called OLIE BOLLEN and APPLEFLAPPEN. Not exactly donuts but equally delicious.
    Happy New year and may we all be published.
    Colin.

  4. This was a fun post, I love learning about other traditions!

    We eat fish here in Romania too, and generally the meat of animals that go forward, so chicken is out of the question for example as its scratching in dirt is a backwards movement.
    Also, pickled cabbage soup, and tarragon soup pertain to traditional New Years meals 🙂

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