New year, new luck? Let's hope so.
After the past few years, we want health, wealth and a heaping plate of good luck all year long. If that means gobbling up certain foods on New Year's Day, so be it.
Adrian Miller, the Soul Food Scholar, tells TODAY.com that it's important to celebrate foods across various cultures as we look toward 2023.
"It’s important because one can see the similarities of beliefs across cultures, the traditions are fun, and usually quite delicious," he says. "Also, one can learn a lot about a culture from such beliefs."
12 New Year's food traditions for luck
Miller shares the meaning behind popular New Years food traditions and where they originated:
Black-Eyed Peas (Europe)
Black-eyed peas symbolize either good luck or coins in the new year.
"My argument is that it’s a riff off the old 'first footer' tradition," Miller says. "The belief was that the first visitor who should cross your threshold in the new year is a dark-haired person with dark eyes. I see black-eyed peas as a substitute for the dark eyes."
Rice symbolizes prosperity.
"They swell — increase in size — and are numerous,” Miller says.
In the U.S., Hoppin' John, a traditional Southern dish of red peas and rice, is traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. It is believed to bring good luck into the new year.
Pork symbolizes good health and luck.
"Because pigs root forward with their snout and feet (or) hooves," Miller says.
Cabbage and other leafy greens (Europe)
Cabbage and other leafy greens symbolize prosperity.
"They represent paper currency," Miller explains.
Noodles symbolize longevity.
"Noodles represent longevity in Asian cultures because they are so long," Miller says.
"In our house, we always eat soba at midnight for good luck," he says.
Lentils symbolize prosperity.
“They swell (or) increase in size, (are) numerous, and the yellow color suggests gold coins,” Miller says.
Fish symbolize luck.
"Fish are lucky, because fish swim forward and represent abundance," Miller says.
Osechi-ryōri, traditional Japanese New Year foods, symbolize good luck.
"There are chefs in Japan who specialize in this," Noguchi tells TODAY.com of the multi-tiered food boxes. "They can make enough money in the new year season that they don't have to do anything else for the rest of the year."
Red-colored foods (Asia)
The color red symbolizes fortune.
"In many Asian cultures, red is auspicious, so dishes are colored that way," Miller says.
Dumplings symbolize wealth, or a large, prosperous family.
Grapes (Spain and Latin countries)
Grapes symbolizes luck.
"Spain and several Latin countries eat grapes at midnight on New Year’s Day," Miller says. "One grape for each chime of the clock."
Ozoni, a special, miso-based soup enjoyed on New Year's Day in Japan, symbolizes luck.
"It's made with mochi," Noguchi says. "And filled with vegetables that all have meaning."