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Traditional Foods to Eat on New Year's Day

Margaret Minnicks is a health-conscious person who researches the health benefits of foods and drinks.

Ham, black-eyed pea with tomatoes, and collard greens

Ham, black-eyed pea with tomatoes, and collard greens

Traditional New Year's Day Foods

New Year's Day is all about luck. Did you know that this superstition extends to food?

Many people have beliefs about certain foods that are either lucky or unlucky to eat on New Year's Day. For some, these beliefs are traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Certain foods are believed to bring good luck all year long, whereas other foods are believed to bring bad luck.

The specific foods that are considered to be lucky or unlucky depending on the country, culture, and region where you live.

Collard greens

Collard greens

The Tradition of Eating Collard Greens

Many people in the South, especially those in the African-American community, eat black-eyed peas with stewed tomatoes and collard greens on New Year's Day.

Their forefathers handed down the tradition because they believed those who eat collard greens will have good luck and money all year long. Some believe that any cooked greens will have the same effect.

Vegetables that belong to that category include the following:

  • cabbage
  • chard
  • collards
  • kale
  • mustard greens

Any of the above is appropriate according to tradition because the green leaves look like folded money. All of the greens are symbolic of good luck and prosperity in the new year.

Black eyed peas

Black eyed peas

The Tradition of Eating Black-Eyed Peas

There are many explanations why black-eyed peas are a staple on a lot of tables on New Year's Day. Their appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked which reminds the consumers of having lots of money throughout the year.

Black-eyed peas are said to be lucky for those who eat them on the first day of the year. This dish is extremely popular in the South and among African-American communities just like collard greens. People have been told that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day will bring good luck all year long.

Explanations of the Tradition

  1. During the Civil War, black-eyed peas were thought to be food for animals because they were not good enough for General Sherman's Union troops. When the soldiers raided the Confederates' food supplies, they took all the food but left behind only the peas and salted pork. The Confederates considered themselves lucky to be left with those meager supplies because they survived the winter by eating plenty of black-eyed peas. Peas became symbolic of good luck and prosperity for those who eat them.
  2. Another explanation is that slaves celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation with black-eyed peas on the first day of January 1863. From that day, black-eyed peas have been eaten on the first day of January.
  3. Others say black-eyed peas were the only crop that was available during the winter months. They were plentiful and cheap.
  4. During the time of the Pharaohs in Egypt, it was believed that eating meager food like black-eyed peas showed humility before the gods, and blessings would follow.
Foods To Eat On New Year's Day

Black-eyed Peas

Stewed Tomatoes

Collard Greens



New Year's Day Foods People Eat In Different Countries



A custom is to leave a little bit of each food on your plate past midnight to guarantee a stocked pantry in the new year.


It is important to have food on the table at midnight for good luck all year long.


Twelve grapes are eaten one at a time with each stroke of the clock until midnight—one grape for each month of the year.

Other Lucky Foods to Eat on New Year's Day

Other than collard greens, stewed tomatoes, and black-eyed peas, there are some foods people eat for good luck and prosperity.

  • Grapes are eaten in Spain for a prosperous new year. One grape is eaten for each stroke of the clock until midnight. Each grape represents a different month. The first grape is for January and other grapes follow the months of the calendar. If the seventh grape is sour, then July will be a sour month. The sweet grapes represent sweet months.
  • Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money like green leafy vegetables.
  • Pork is eaten to symbolize progress. Pigs push forward, rooting in the ground before moving forward. The rich fat of pork represents wealth.
  • Fish, especially cod, is said to be lucky because they swim forward. Lobster shouldn't be eaten because it brings bad luck because it moves backward.
  • Cakes and baked goods that are shaped in circles are commonly served from Christmas to New Year's Day around the world for prosperity.

Unlucky Foods on New Year's Day

Foods Not To Eat Reason Not To Eat


Lobsters move backward and could therefore lead to setbacks.


Chickens scratch backward, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past.

Winged Fowl

Winged fowl could cause your good luck to fly away.