Eat these foods for New Year's luck

Watching this year’s dire financial news, I had one thought (besides mourning my 401k):

Somebody didn’t eat their collards.

OK, maybe they skipped the black-eyed peas. In fact, since the tough economy has spread around the world, it looks like a lot of people fell down on the New Year’s job last year.

From Spain, where people eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight Dec. 31 to China, where people will celebrate the Year of the Ox starting Jan. 26, there are a lot of foods connected with riches and prosperity.

Here in the South, I wouldn’t think of passing a Jan. 1 without at least a bite of collards and black-eyed peas.

I thought I knew where the peas and collards come from — coins and dollars. The hog jowl was less clear. My father used to tell us that if we had enough money to eat it by choice instead of necessity, it meant we were doing pretty good.

I don’t promise that any of these foods actually do any good. But the way things are going, do you really want to take a chance?

A bite of pickled herring is a small price to pay for prosperity.

Beans and peas

Black-eyed peas in the South, lentils in Brazil, green lentils in Italy and Hungary. Some say it’s because they resemble coins. But it’s also very ancient. Since dried beans swell when they are cooked, they have always represented getting more.

Green leafy things Collards in the South, cabbage in Korea (kimchi), Bosnia, Croatia and Germany (sauerkraut). Southerners think green leaves represent dollars, but connections to leafy greens date to cultures that didn’t have green dollar bills. It probably has more to do with ancient beliefs that green is lucky because of its connection to spring and new growth.

Egg rolls

Egg rolls and stacks of spring rolls represent gold bars in Asian cultures.


Herring, pickled and not pickled, in Germany, Scandinavia, Poland; cod in Denmark and Italy. Fish stand for prosperity in a lot of places, because of the need for a good catch or from the idea of hauling in riches. Asian cultures also serve fish with the head and tail on, to represent a complete life.


Anything that looks like gold represents riches in Asian cultures.


Stands for prosperity and abundance in many cultures, from Eastern to Western.

There are several theories, but the most common is that because pigs root while moving forward, they represent moving forward and gaining riches.

(Associated with bad luck: Cows, which stand still to eat, chickens, which scratch backward, and lobsters, which move backward.)


The round seeds represent coins in Turkey; the vivid red color and the multitude of seeds are lucky, too.


In the Piedmont region of Italy. Rice swells when you cook it, so it symbolizes getting more.