As we're about to ring in 2017, make resolutions we know we won't keep, and hopefully not be too intoxicated that we need Ryan Seacrest's help to count backwards from ten, here's some fun facts about New Years and the food traditions that go along with it:
1) Black-eyed peas and greens...what's the big deal?
If you talk to a Southerner, they'll tell you eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day dates back to the Civil War. Black-eyed peas were considered in the low class of animal food, much like other types of peas were. When General Sherman's Union troops raided the Confederate food supplies, legend states they took everything but left the black-eyes peas and salted pork. The Confederates considered themselves very lucky they left those items behind, so they'd still survive through the winter. From that point, black-eyed peas became a symbol of luck.
Others will tell you that since much of the South is farmland, and black-eyed peas hold up well through the winter, they're cheap and just make sense!
An interesting note, though, is that there are records dating back to the ancient Egyptians stating that Pharaohs of the time would eat black-eyed peas, as it was considered a "meager" food, to show their humility before the gods. The thought was, you showed your meekness, and you'd be blessed, and avoid the gods wrath,
As far as preparation, black-eyed peas are often served with collard, turnip or mustard greens, with the peas symbolizing coins, and the greens symbolizing money or cash. Cornbread is also typically served with black-eyed peas, with the cornbread representing gold. Some people will even tell you to put a shiny penny or dime into the pot right before you serve the peas, and the person who receives the bowl with that coin will get the most luck in the New Year. Let's just hope no one ends up chipping a tooth, or accidentally swallows the coin, which seems to me like it might definitely be a sign of bad luck in the year to come...
2) Don't eat anything that can turn around or go backwards!
It may sound silly, but this is actually a huge superstition with many people! Pork is a very popular and tradition rich food to eat at New Years for two reasons. One, is that it was left by the Union troops during the Civil War and not stolen (see above). But another main reason is that swine cannot turn their heads to look back, therefore they're always "moving forward." They also "root" themselves into the ground before going forwards, symbolizing a rooted new year to come. So eat up that pork!
The opposite goes for lobsters, however, as they can move backwards, representing setbacks instead of good fortune for the new year. You may even run into people who tell you to avoid eating chicken (or anything that flys for that matter) on New Years, as it symbolizes your good luck and fortune flying away. Chickens in particular scratch themselves backwards as well, so there's a double no on those birds!
3) We shouldn't clean our plates?
There is also a superstition saying that you should leave a tiny bit of food on your plate at the end of the night, symbolizing you'll have plenty in the year to come. Or you can look at it as a "jumpstart" to your new years diet,..
4) If you believe in some British superstitions...
If you go to crack open eggs for any reason, be sure to crush every bit of the remaining shells. If you don't, there's a legend that a British witch will scoop them up, use them as a boat, then sail around causing storms and a string of bad luck.
5) Drink up that wine, but take careful notes with the grapes!
That's right, people over in Spain eat exactly 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, each one symobilizing a month of the year. Word has it, that if you get a particularly bad or sour one in your mouth, say, for your third grape, then March might be a rough and rocky month for you.
6) Eat something round...not square, not triangular, round!
Whether it be cakes, doughnuts, pastries, you name it, as long as it's round, you're sure to bring in a great new year, as the round shape represents things coming full circle.
7) If you're in Greece, be prepared to waste a perfectly good piece of fruit!
In Greece, as soon as the new year is here, they take a whole pomegranate and smash it (that's right, SMASH IT) on the floor. Once it's broken open and seeds are a spillin', they view it as "the more seeds, the more luck."
8) Have you practiced your slurping technique?
In Japanese and Chinese traditions, get yourself a big bowl of some type of noodle (like soba), and slurp the night away. But you only get the good luck if you can slurp the whole noodle without breaking or chewing it!
9) Let them have cake!
Let's hope you like your family, because one tradition says when baking a cake, you're suppossed to let each member of the family get a turn at mixing the cake batter, symbolizing family and togetherness. Some countries also place "special treats" inside the batter, like a candy coated nut or even a money coin into the cake batter, and whover gets that special piece when cut will have the most fortune in the year to come.
10) It may smell, but eating fish is also definitely a must!
Numerous countries and people groups also eat some type of fish for a couple of reasons. One being (similar to pigs) is that they cannot go backwards, and only swim forwards, thereby symbolizing progression and moving forward in the coming year. Some countries, like Japan, specifically eat Snapper, because of the color of the skin symbolizing good luck.
So there ya' have it, the most generally talked about and read about New Years food traditions you may come across.
Here's to hoping we can stay awake past 9pm, stop lying to ourselves about making lifestyle changes and do something else on New Year's Eve besides trying to figure out where to spend New Year's Eve.
Do you or your family have any "must have" New Years food traditions, superstitions or beliefs? Comment below and tell us about em'!