New Year food superstitions

N07C8290 PC CourierGrapes: Dating back to the early 1900s, people in Spain, Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru consume 12 grapes at midnight — one grape for each stroke of the clock. Each grape represents a different month, so if for instance the third grape is a bit sour, March might be a rocky month. For most, the goal is to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight, but Peruvians insist on taking in a 13th grape for good measure.

Cooked Greens: Cabbage, collards, kale, and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money, and are thus symbolic of economic fortune. The Danish eat stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, the Germans consume sauerkraut (cabbage) while in the southern United States, collards are the green of choice. It’s widely believed that the more greens one eats the larger one’s fortune next year.

Legumes: Beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seedlike appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin’ john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the New Year. This all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Miss., ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky.

Pork: The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

Fish: Fish is lucky for a couple of reasons. Its scales resemble money and fish swim in schools which invoke the idea of abundance. There are also plenty of nutritional benefits. Fatty fish (salmon and tuna) are filled with Omega-3s and leaner fish (tilapia and sole) are a great source of protein.

Cakes: Baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped items. Although cake isn’t customarily considered healthy, a little indulgence can be a healthy thing for stress relief. Ring shaped cakes-sometimes with trinkets baked inside-are a symbol of coming full circle.

What Not to Eat: Lobster is said to be unlucky because they move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.

Stock Up: You should stock up on food and money. Cupboards and refrigerators should be full of food, so you won’t go hungry in the New Year. Additionally, every person should have money on their person, whether in a wallet or pocket. This is obviously to ensure you have some paper for the rest of the year.

Resolve Debts: Similarly, all household debt and personal debts should be paid off before January 1. If not, you’ll be paying back debts all year long.

But Not On New Year’s Day: We all have bills to pay, but don’t pay back loans or bills on New Year’s Day. And don’t lend money or other precious items either because, if you do, you’ll be paying out all year long.

The First Footer: The first person to enter your home after the stroke of midnight will determine what kind of year you have, and the superstition says that person should be of the male variety. Blondes and redheads apparently bring bad luck, while a woman who walks across your threshold first will bring disaster down on your household. Men with flat feet, unibrows, and crossed eyes are also bad news. This special first person (called “The Lucky Bird”) shouldn’t use a key even if he is a member of the household. He should ceremoniously knock and be let in.

Stay Put: Nothing, even garbage, should leave the house on January 1. But for some people it’s all right if something leaves the home, as long as something else has been brought in first.

Something New: Wear something new on New Year’s Day to increase the likelihood of receiving more garments in 2015.

Open Doors: All the energy from the old year has to be let go. So at the stroke of midnight, all the household doors should be opened.

Do Laundry Another Day: On a more morbid note, don’t do laundry on New Year’s Day because superstition says that you’ll “wash away” a family member — or cause their death — in the upcoming year.

Get Loud: You have to make as much noise as possible at midnight, because you’re not only celebrating, but you are also scaring evil spirits away.