Why People Eat Pork On New Year’s Day: The Story Behind the Tradition
There’s a time-honored tradition of preparing pork on New Year’s Day, as it’s commonly said that eating pork on New Year’s brings good luck. But where did this tradition originate, and what’s its significance?
How the Tradition of Eating Pork on New Year’s Started
Pigs, Luck, and the Pennsylvania Dutch
The most frequently mentioned explanation for the tradition of eating pork on the New Year comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch. According to lore, the forward movement of pigs when they root around for food on the ground signifies a “moving forward” trajectory in life, and thus pork is a favorable meat to enjoy to start the year off on the right track.
Sauerkraut is also known to be a lucky food to consume on the New Year, and is often served alongside the main pork entree such a Polish sausage. Since cabbage is green, over time it came to be associated with prosperity. The Pennsylvania Dutch method of fermenting the cabbage to turn it into sauerkraut made this side dish particularly popular with pork.
Autumn in Old Eastern Europe
Closely linked to the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions are the Eastern European influences. Many Americans have German, Polish, and Czech ancestry that may further add to the popularity of this tradition in the U.S.
The autumn slaughter has been a tradition for Eastern European farmers from ages past, when colder temperatures meant better preservation. And since it naturally coincided with the fall harvest income, many farmers could afford to purchase larger amounts of meat for the winter.
As the cold winter months came along, sizable cuts of meat could be kept chilled or even frozen for later use. So it only makes sense that a New Year’s Day celebratory choice of meat would be one of those premium pork cuts from the autumn slaughter.
Traditional New Year's Foods Around the Globe
Pork and sauerkraut may be some of the most popular New Year’s dishes stateside, but there are other auspicious foods enjoyed internationally.
- In Spain, twelve grapes are eaten for the New Year — one upon each toll of the bell as the clock strikes midnight.
- In the Netherlands, oliebollen, or steaming, fried balls of dough, are enjoyed specifically on New Year’s Eve.
- Soba noodles are wildly popular on New Year’s in Japan. The noodles symbolize a long life and toshikoshi soba is actually translated as “year-crossing noodle.”
- Cotechino con lenticchie is a New Year’s dish enjoyed in Italy. This sausage and lentil stew represents good fortune. Zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter) is another New Year’s staple in Italy.
- In Mexico around the New Year holiday, people share tamales stuffed with meat and cheese with their families and friends. A soup called menudo is often consumed on New Year’s Day to help with hangovers.
The Most Popular Pork Dishes to Prepare for New Year’s
If you’re following the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition to a tee, you might try making hog maw — pork stomach stuffed with ingredients like sausage, onions, potatoes, and more. But since this heritage dish may be a bit tricky to execute and may not be pleasing to the modern palate, there are plenty of other (easier) ways to enjoy your New Year’s pork.
If you’ve got time on your hands and want to make a hearty meal for your family, get out your slow cooker and try a pork roast. This recipe includes sauerkraut — as well as black pepper and rosemary seasoning and nourishing root vegetables like Yukon gold potatoes and carrots.
Want something that can be made a bit quicker? Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Gravy involve minimal prep time and can still pair quite well with a sauerkraut side. Herb-Crusted Pork Chops offer a savory flavor with a mustard-mixture base, panko breadcrumbs, and fresh herbs like tarragon and parsley. (These greens will surely bring prosperity similar to cabbage!)
Coleman Natural’s Line of Pork Products
If you want a variation on the pork roast but still want to partake in tradition, chops might be more your style. Coleman’s line of pork chops features a variety of products for your needs, and also includes boneless or bone-in pork chop options with easy-peel packaging — just pull back the tab and add your desired seasonings.
Coleman Natural uses all-natural pork from American family farms that raise their animals crate free, with no antibiotics or added hormones ever. This New Year, choose to serve up humanely raised pork and look for luck as you move forward.
From the team at Coleman Natural, we wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!
Want to try more pork recipes? Here are a few to get you started: