The old southern adage says, "Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold… Eat poor on New Year's, and eat fat the rest of the year!"
When I moved to Georgia about six years ago, there were a few southern folkways that I really had to acclimate to.
Some were good--people asking how you are and how your day is going, courteous drivers, and people trying to feed you every time you go over to their house.
Some were confusing--groom's cakes, fried green tomatoes, the crowds of teenagers sitting in the Walmart parking lot.
And some were just plain scary--"Wow, you really are going to put four cups of sugar in that sweet tea and drink it for breakfast! OK."
Yet, on my third year here in Georgia I was invited to a friend's house for New Years Day dinner. I was introduced to my all time favorite of southern customs and traditions, good luck foods. I had never seen such an involved, thought out meal before. I loved how everything had a meaning and a purpose for being prepared. To this day, New Years is one of my all time favorite holidays.
However, eating good luck foods on New Years Day is not limited to the South. It is a custom practiced all over the world. Here are some of our southern good luck food favorites, along with some from around the world. That way we can cover all the bases and ring in 2012 as the best year yet!
PORK: Pigs are eaten all over the world as a food that symbolized progress. In America, we see pork as a meat with rich fat content, thus symbolizing wealth and prosperity.
COOKED GREENS: It is easy to see why this could be a good luck food. With the vegetables green color and folded appearance, they resemble money. Cabbage, collards, kale, and chard are all greens that are symbolic of good fortune.
LEGUMES: These small, round beans can often look like coins. Beans, peas, lentils, black eyed peas, etc. They also plump as they cook, symbolizing wealth.
FISH: All fish is good to eat on New Years, but cod is a fish that has been a popular feast food dating back to the Middle Ages. Fish is said to bring abundance, since fish swim in schools. Also, eating fish is a symbol of moving forward into the new year. In Japan, herring roe is eaten for fertility, shrimp for a long life, and dried sardines for a good harvest.
CAKES: Round shaped cakes and breads are eaten all over the world on New Years day. In most countries, a coin or a trinket is hidden inside the cake. The recipient to get that slice is said to have good fortune all year long.
12 GRAPES: A custom that originated in Spain is eating twelve grapes. One for every strike of the clock, and every month in the year. The grapes are said to symbolize the months. If your eighth grape is really sweet, you will have a good month in August.
NOODLES: In Asia, eating long noodles is said to give you long life. However, the catch is that you cannot break the noodles when you are eating them!
POMEGRANATE: This fruit is eaten in Turkey and other Mediterranean countries for luck in the new year. It is symbolic of abundance and fertility.
CITRUS: In China, oranges and tangerines are placed on the table for the New Years meal. This could be because "orange" and "tangerine" sound very much like "wealth" and "luck" in the Chinese language.
FOODS TO AVOID: Lobster should not be eaten on New Year's Day because the lobster moves backwards, symbolizing setbacks. Also, the chicken scratches itself backwards which is said to bring upon regret or dwelling on the past.
And, don't forget to put a dime under your plate, just in case.
Editor's Note: This originally appeared on Jan. 1, 2012 on Holly Springs Patch.