Hoppin' John. Originating in the American South, Hoppin' John is traditionally served on New Year's Day. It's a simple, hearty dish that combines black-eyed peas, ham, rice and spices, and is believed to bring good luck to all who consume it. The beans represent coins, for wealth in the New Year, and the pork represents optimism. Hoppin' John is often served with collard greens, mustard greens or kale, thought to also represent wealth with their dark green color.
RECIPE: TRADITIONAL NEW YEAR’S HOPPIN' JOHN »
Grapes. In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's, it’s customary to eat a dozen grapes - one with each chime of the clock. The 12 grapes represent the 12 months of the New Year - and if one of those grapes happens to be extra-sweet, that means you might even have some extra luck that month.
Soba noodles. In Japan, soba noodles are traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve. Called toshikoshi, or Year-End Soba, these buckwheat noodles are served in a hot dashi, and topped with green onions and kamaboko (fish cake). It's a simple meal that's often eaten quietly at home, with hopes for good fortune in the New Year.
Cakes, bagels and doughnuts. Ring-shaped foods, including these tasty breads and pastries, are popular New Year's fare throughout Europe. They are thought to invite luck by representing the “full circle” of time: the close of the old year and the beginning of the new.
RECIPE: MARBLE BUND CAKE »
Lentils. Italy is known for its pasta, but surprisingly lentils are the one dish that most Italians eat on New Year's Eve. These coin-shaped legumes are supposed to bring wealth and overall prosperity, and are served with cotechino, a spicy pork sausage, that represents abundance.