With St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, facts and fables about rich Irish legacy abound. In fact the proverbial “luck of the Irish” is actually a term traced back to the 19th century mining industry when the most successful workers were said to be of Irish descent. But as part of any holiday celebration is the joy of sharing food with friends and family, what about foods said to bring on good (or even bad!) luck?
According to Turkish, and some say Greek, tradition, pomegranate seeds symbolize prosperity and good fortune. On New Year’s Day, a pomegranate is traditionally smashed on the floor, just inside the front door, to reveal its lucky seeds.
Pork products (chops; ribs; bacon; ham; sausage; pancetta; etc.) are said to represent prosperity, given the pig’s substantial girth. Pigs also use their prominent proboscis to root forward, symbolizing progress.
In Italy the lucky lentil is coveted, reportedly since the days of ancient Rome, because of its resemblance to coins. Brazil also loves legumes for the same reason. In the American South, black-eyed peas carry the coin connotation.
Some say eating greens, because they are the color of money, will portent good fortune. Even if they don’t, it never hurts to err on the side of good health with heaping portions of broccoli, kale, collard greens, and spinach!
Japan promotes consuming soba (long buckwheat) noodles to ensure long life, but only if swallowed without chewing or otherwise breaking them in any way.
Ring-shaped foods like bagels and donuts are said to promote luck, possibly because they represent coming full circle. Even if they don’t end up bringing you fame and fortune, surely your taste buds will feel lucky.
Because of its bright yellow color, eating cornbread is said to symbolize the acquisition of gold.
In China, tangerines represent good luck and oranges symbolize wealth. In Vietnam, red means luck, so be sure to indulge in foods like watermelon, apples, beets, cherries and the like.
Grains, including rice, barley, oats, and quinoa swell when cooked, symbolizing growth and abundance.
According to legend and lore, and especially at the beginning of the year, some cultures believe consuming poultry is not recommended because it can fly away, taking all your luck with it. Chicken is said to be especially avoided as, unlike the pig, it scratches backwards, bringing setbacks. While most fish swim forward and their silvery scales are redolent of money, lobsters swim backwards so the taboo chicken rule is said to apply to them.
And, contrary to what your mother may have taught you, some cultures believe that leaving over food on your plate is a good thing — signifying you will never be without. So much for those of us who are lifelong members of the clean plate club!