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Eating beans on New Year’s day brings success, chicken is bad luck

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By Prof Raphael Nyarkotey Obu
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On December 29, 2023, I saw something on CNN that got me interested. The health titbits report that eating traditional beans ensures good luck in the New Year. I was surprised. Since everyone looks towards the New Year with hope for good health, happiness, and good luck, especially after the past couple of years we’ve had, I decided to write to inform you about good luck foods for this new year.

I notice that every food has a spiritual background but I never knew beans were linked to success in the new year.

Helyn Trickey, CNN.com Interactivity Editor(2000) also revealed that if you bear a grudge against someone, sip a soup. If you want to banish hunger from your home, throw a cake at your door. Chocolate, too, is rumored to be a sign of richness, and is consumed to ensure wealth in the coming year, says food historian and cookbook author Ruth Adams Bronz. But, if it is good sex you seek — nothing beats an oyster.

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“A good oyster is like a poached egg, you just warm it, but you don’t cook it all the way,” says Bronz as she recalls her grandmother’s Oyster Pie. This delicacy is generally reserved for the first day of the year and is eaten to ensure an active libido in the year to come.

 There seem to be certain foods that have taken on cross-cultural symbolism. Let’s take a look at some traditional foods that bring good luck and how you can spice them up!

Black-eyed peas

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Black-eyed peas are a very common side dish for a New Year’s Day meal thanks to their long history with good fortune. It is believed that African Americans celebrated the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation by feasting on dishes that included black-eyed peas. It is also said that in Ancient Egypt, black-eyed peas were eaten as a way to show humility to the gods, therefore bringing good luck to those who ate them.  Beans represent luck and greens represent money. Typically, collard greens and black-eyed peas are served as sides but, in Charleston, a rice and bean dish called Hoppin’ John is popular.

It is also believed that beans and other legumes are eaten because their shape resembles a coin, and they are said to bring wealth and prosperity in the coming year. In Italy, Brazil, and much of Europe, residents eat lentils – with rice, in soups, or mixed with sausage. Lentils have added good luck because they swell when cooked, adding the imagery of growing wealth. Sweet black beans called kuromame are usually on the menu in Japan.

This means that Gobe is a New Year’s meal. Besides, you can also eat the beans alone or with a few rice.


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In parts of Europe and the southern US, cooked greens resemble cash, and are eaten on January 1st to bring wealth. From Sauerkraut in Germany to kale in northern Europe, to collard greens in the American south, people eat plenty of greens hoping for a financially prosperous year – and the added health benefits surely can’t hurt!


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Pork is known to bring good luck for a very interesting reason– the way that pigs behave. Animal theorists say that while most animals scratch backward, pigs bury their snout in the ground and move forward– the same way we want to go into the New Year. Per German and Eastern European traditions, pork is often eaten on New Year’s Day with cabbage. For example, sausage and sauerkraut is a popular New Year’s Day meal.


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In Japan, long soba noodles are eaten to ensure longevity. Because only unbroken noodles are said to bring long life, they are cooked in a soup and then slurped.


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Germans and Scandinavians eat pickled herring at midnight. Their abundance in parts of Europe is hoped to bring abundance in the New Year, and their silvery color is reminiscent of silver coins. In China, eating a steamed fish cooked whole for the Lunar New Year (different from our January 1st New Year) is thought to bring a long, healthy life.


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In the Philippines, it is common to celebrate New Year’s Eve with fruit. Filipinos use twelve different types of fruit to symbolize each month of the year. These typically include round fruits, but can sometimes also include mangoes and watermelons.

In Mexico, they celebrate the New Year by eating grapes at midnight. This stems from a Spanish tradition known as Las Doce Uvas de la Suerte, or “the Twelve Grapes of Luck”. When the clock strikes midnight, you eat one grape for each stroke of the clock for prosperity and good luck.

Rice pudding

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Rice pudding is served in Sweden and Finland with an almond hidden somewhere inside. The lucky finder of the nut is said to be guaranteed a lucky new year — and some families even give them a prize, according to Global Table Adventure.

What not to eat

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Chicken! Interestingly, in Ghana, we eat chicken. However, it has been reported that because chicken and other poultry scratch backward, they are considered bad luck to eat on New Year’s Day in most parts of the world. Eating chicken would mean moving backward in the upcoming year – something no one wants to do.

The writer is a professor of naturopathic healthcare, a medical journalist, an author, and a science writer. E. mail: [email protected]. For more about me, Visit:  profnyarkotey.com

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