Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Wonder Team. Wonder Team Wonders, “What Foods Bring Luck in the New Year?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wonder Team!

A new year is upon us! Do you greet New Year’s Day with any special traditions? Some people like to watch football games. Others take time to make resolutions for the coming year.

Another popular tradition is to make and eat lucky foods to start the new year off on the right foot. What foods are lucky? And how did they get that reputation? Come with us as we take a look!

New Year’s Day traditions vary around the world. Still, many “lucky” foods can be broken down into six groups. These are greens, grapes, pork, fish, legumes, and cake. Let’s take a closer look at each:

  • Greens: Many different types of cooked greens are thought to be lucky. Depending on your culture, these could include cabbage, kale, chard and collard greens. Why are greens thought to bring luck? Many people believe their green leaves look like folded money. They hope greens will bring them good luck with money in the new year.

  • Grapes: People all around the world eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve. This is especially common in Spain, Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. Each of the grapes represents one of the months of the coming year. Some believe that the grapes can predict trends in the coming year. For example, if the fifth grape eaten is sour, the fifth month (May) might be difficult.

  • Pork: Pork is the main dish of choice on New Year’s Day in many countries around the world. Some believe pigs are lucky because their high fat content represents prosperity and wealth. Others think pigs symbolize progress. That’s because pigs are known to push forward with their snouts while rooting in the ground.

  • Fish: Fish are also popular on New Year’s Day. Experts think fish became a popular holiday or feast food thousands of years ago for a couple of reasons. First, religious traditions often called for fish instead of red meat during feasts. Second, before refrigeration, fish could be kept and transported more easily than other meats.

  • Legumes: Legumes—such as peas, beans, and lentils—are eaten in many different countries around the world. In the U.S., for example, it’s common in the South to eat black-eyed peas. Experts believe this tradition started in Africa and later spread throughout the American South. Some people also believe legumes look like small coins that swell when cooked. Some people eat them with the hope of great riches in the new year.

  • Cake: From donuts to more traditional cakes, round or ring-shaped sweets are very popular on New Year’s Day. Many people believe round foods symbolize a circle. They may bring good luck that the coming year will go well and come “full circle” around to this same point in time the following year.

Just like there are lucky foods you should eat, there are also a few foods that many people think you should avoid. For example, many people believe you should avoid lobster and chicken on New Year’s Day. That’s because these creatures often move backwards. Others believe you should avoid all birds, so that your luck won’t fly away!

And, finally, one more word of warning before you dig in: Always leave a little food on your plate. Many people believe eating everything on your plate means you’re greedy and will result in bad luck. On the other hand, leaving a little food on your plate will guarantee you’ll have plenty to eat in the coming year.

What are your family’s New Year’s traditions? Do you gather for a lucky meal? Talk about your goals for the upcoming year? Whatever your customs, it’s always fun to start the new year with people you care about.

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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