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Why these 5 foods are eaten for good luck in the new year

Ring in 2021 with some black eyed peas, pork, greens and more!
Black eyed peas and rice
Eating black-eyed peas and rice on New Year's Day is a Southern tradition that dates back to the Civil War. Lew Robertson / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

After 2020, we want health, wealth and heaping gobs of good luck all year long. But are we being overly superstitious by thinking there are actually some foods that are more auspicious than others?

Superstition or not, why hedge our bets? These food-based rituals are not only fun, they're absolutely delicious.

1. Pork

The expression "high on the hog" refers to the choice cuts of pork, those from the loin, shoulder and upper leg, long reserved for the elite. The "low on the hog" cuts like belly, trotters and offal were left for poor folk. Not so today — it's all good for all folks! So, naturally, pork, with its rich, delicious fattiness has come to symbolize wealth and prosperity. With so many options like sausage, ribs, bacon, ham, suckling pig, etc., there's no reason not to be in "hog heaven" for at least one day.

2. Lentils

Vegan Lentil Chili

Vegan Lentil Chili

Chloe Coscarelli

Italians eat lentils on New Year's Eve for wealth and prosperity because the flat legumes were once believed to resemble Roman coins. They're traditionally served with — you guessed it: pork — this time in the form of a huge sausage called cotechino that simmers with the lentils.

3. Soba Noodles

Turkey Soba Noodle Salad

In Japan, they signify long life, but only if you eat them without breaking or chewing them. Slurp these long noodles in one piece for a good long life or, at the very least, a very tasty meal.

4. Black-Eyed Peas

There are several different thoughts on why black-eyed peas have come to symbolize good luck. In America, the prevailing folklore dates back to the Civil War era, when black-eyed peas, also known as field peas, were used to feed grazing cattle. During the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, in late spring of 1863, the town was cut off from all food supplies for nearly two months. People were close to starvation and resorted to eating the crops previously reserved for feeding their livestock. If it weren't for the lowly "cowpeas" (as they're also known), many people wouldn't have survived. Lucky or resourceful, those folks created one tasty tradition out of a versatile legume.

5. Greens

Greens ... greenbacks ... moola? Makes sense. Leafy greens resemble folded paper money symbolizing wealth and prosperity. Pair them with black–eyed peas and ham for a truly Southern-style New Year's Ever tradition and triple your luck for 2021.

Grace Parisi is a New York City-based food writer, cookbook author and food stylist. Her book, "Get Saucy," was nominated for a James Beard award. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.