Many holidays and special events have food traditions tied to the event’s history, culture, and location, as well as developed collective interests over time.
New Year’s Eve is no different, with various food traditions emerging across the U.S. and the world. From Southern comfort foods to seasonal eats, there are several dinners, snacks, and desserts people love to eat for both the good taste and good luck!
I’ll discuss the traditions around food, share why I love them, and help you decide whether you want to include them in your celebrations.
Here are some popular New Year’s Eve food traditions enjoyed by many on December 31st.
Black-eyed peas are a popular New Year's dish in the Southern United States.
Some believe these peas represent good luck and that eating them may bring prosperity in the coming year.
I personally love black-eyed peas because of their earthy, hearty flavor and creamy, inviting consistency.
They also take only 45 minutes to cook, so they're an easy addition to any big traditional dinner.
The best time to enjoy these peas is during dinner, as they make for an excellent side dish to hearty meals like pork and sauerkraut or mac and cheese.
Another New Year's Eve tradition, especially in the South, is to eat cabbage. Some believe that cabbage brings good luck because it resembles paper money.
I love cabbage for its crisp texture and slightly sweet flavor. I like to cook it with bacon and a little chicken broth for additional fatty, juicy flavors.
People often eat cabbage as a side, but I think it is a delicious addition to salads and slaw. You can even fry it as a unique and tasty alternative to traditional French fries.
Cornbread is yet another food traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve in the South.
It is said to represent gold, which is yet another sign of prosperity and good luck.
Cornbread is one of my favorite foods because it is so versatile. It can be sweet or savory, enjoyed as a side dish or dessert.
I typically eat it as a side dish with savory foods such as mac and cheese or ground beef chili.
My favorite way to consume cornbread is with loads of butter. I also love to add a little honey for sweetness.
In Chinese culture, steamed dumplings are a must-have on any New Year's Eve table.
Dumplings represent wealth because of their shape, which resembles ancient Chinese ingots.
I love steamed dumplings because they are so comforting and filling.
The dough is soft and chewy, and the filling is typically a mix of meats and vegetables. My favorite filling is pork and chives.
People often eat dumplings as a snack or appetizer, but I think they also make a great main dish, especially if you're like me and like to eat 20-25 in one sitting.
In many cultures, lentils are seen as good luck because they resemble coins - specifically Roman coins.
I love lentils because they are so hearty and filling. They have a nutty flavor that I enjoy and are packed with protein and fiber.
People typically eat lentils as a side dish, and I personally enjoy them in lentil soup.
If you want to cook them up and serve them as a plated dish, I recommend serving lentils alongside grilled pork.
Another food item that goes swimmingly with pork is sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage with a distinct, bold taste.
Pork and sauerkraut are popular in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other Northeastern states.
It is said that eating this meal on New Year's Eve will bring good luck and fortune in the coming year because pigs tend to root forward.
Regardless of whether or not this myth is true, I think it's an exceptionally tasty and hearty dish that's hard to resist on New Year's Eve.
One of my favorite New Year's Eve food traditions comes from Central America - tamales.
Tamales are cornhusks filled with various fillings, typically including meats, cheeses, and vegetables. They are then steamed until the corn husk is cooked through.
I love tamales because they are so savory, dynamic, and filling.
My favorite tamales are the ones with chicken and cheese, but there are endless possibilities for tamale fillings, so you and your loved ones can have loads of fun while making these on New Year's Eve.
In Jewish culture, it is customary to eat oranges and honey on New Year's Eve.
Oranges represent the hope for a sweet new year, while honey signifies the abundance that is to come.
I love this tradition because it is so simple yet delicious and refreshing. I love the sweetness of the oranges combined with the sticky, syrupy texture of honey.
This is a great dish to enjoy as a snack or dessert. If you want to get a bit fancier, you can even use oranges and honey to make a glaze for chicken or ham.
Eating fish on New Year's Eve is a popular tradition in many cultures, as fish are said to represent good luck and fortune and abundance, likely because they swim in abundant schools.
I love eating fish on New Year's Eve because it feels lighter and healthier than other traditional dishes.
Plus, there is a multitude of ways to incorporate it into the meal. You can bake fish, fry it, grill it, or even serve it raw as sushi.
My favorite fish dish on New Year's Eve is baked garlic butter salmon with fresh lemon and asparagus on the side.
If you are looking for a specific fish to eat on New Year's Eve, herring and salmon are said to be especially lucky. But really, any type of fish will do.
Another popular New Year's Eve tradition is to eat greens, as they are said to represent money and good financial fortune due to their green color.
I love eating greens on New Year's Eve because there are various ways to prepare them, and they are always so flavorful.
You can eat greens fresh, such as in a salad, but the most traditional way of eating them is by making Southern-style collard greens.
You can make collard green by cooking down greens with bacon, onions, and garlic. You then simmer the greens in a pot of chicken broth until they are nice and tender.
The result is a rich, flavorful, and satisfying dish perfect for a cold winter's night.
Eating cake is an enjoyable experience any time of the year, and many people from various backgrounds associate cake with celebrations such as birthdays and weddings.
Cake has a place on New Year's Eve, as it represents good luck, fortune, and tons to celebrate in the coming year, like many of the other food traditions.
My favorite flavor of cake to eat on New Year's Eve is black forest cake, which is a chocolate cake with cherries and whipped cream. It's the perfect balance of rich, sweet, and tart.
It's also common to enjoy the Greek cake, Vasilopita, for good luck at midnight!
No matter what type of cake you enjoy, save room for it on New Year's Eve. It'll be worth it, I promise.
Pomegranate is a little different than the rest of these food traditions because instead of eating it, the tradition is to throw pomegranate seeds on the ground and smash them in front of your house to bring good luck.
Some people, especially those with Turkish and Greek roots, see the bright, vibrant red color of pomegranate seeds represents life, fertility, vitality, and prosperity.
If you do want to incorporate pomegranate into your New Year's Eve dinner, there are many ways to do so!
I like to add pomegranate seeds to my salad for a pop of color and sweetness. You can also use pomegranate juice to make a festive cocktail.
Check out some pomegranate recipes to try!
Whichever way you choose to enjoy pomegranate this New Year's Eve, make sure to reserve some seeds for the traditional throwing and smashing!
Long noodles are a popular New Year's Eve tradition in Chinese culture, as they represent long life and good health.
I highly enjoy eating noodles on New Year's Eve because they are so versatile.
You can add any protein, vegetables, and sauce to them and have a delicious meal. My favorite recipe for long noodles incorporates chicken, shrimp, bok choy, and mushrooms in a garlic soy sauce.
In Japan, it's common to eat soba noodles.
If you want to try something different this New Year's Eve, try a noodle dish of your choosing!
Try these New Year’s foods for good luck as you ring in a new year. Don’t forget a bottle of NYE champagne to complete your celebration!
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