Countries across the world have specific traditions that are believed to offer good luck for the New Year. As the end of 2011 approaches, you can start 2012 off on a good foot by consuming some of the international foods of fortune. These lucky treats also make great gourmet gifts to send to family, friends and coworkers.
Cakes. In Mexico and Greece, it is customary to hide a gold coin inside a cake to offer the recipient luck in the New Year. The rosca de reyes is a ring-shaped cake decorated with fruit that is given to friends and family in Mexico, while the vasilopita is the cake that is given in Greece. If you'd like to join in on this tradition, don't worry if your baking skills are far from satisfactory. Thankfully, it's easy to find desserts online without leaving the comfort of your own home. All you need is a little icing to cover the opening where you slide in the coin.
Greens. Germans, Danish and residents of southern USA often cook greens on New Year's Eve because these money-resembling veggies are traditionally believed to bestow prosperity. In Germany, sauerkraut is the "green" of choice, while the Danish usually eat stewed kale and southerners prefer collard greens.
Fish. Because they swim forward, some countries believe eating fish can symbolize moving forward into the New Year, according to Good Housekeeping. Epicurious.com notes that the Japanese attribute certain fortunes with specific varieties.
"In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize rice fields)," the source reports.
Noodles. Many Asian countries eat long noodles, like soba, on New Year's day. Tradition requires that the noodle isn't broken before it's in the mouth in order to provide good luck.
Legumes. Beans and lentils are chosen because they resemble coins. Black eyed peas are a lucky pick in southern USA, lentils are eaten in Italy, Brazil and Germany and kuro-mame (a type of sweet black bean) are eaten in Japan.
Grapes. Since 1909, when there was a surplus of grapes in the Alicante region, the Spanish have consumed 12 grapes at midnight. The practice spread quickly, and is now common in Portugal, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Peru and Ecuador. All 12 must be eaten before the bell stops tolling.
You can decide to follow one of these traditions or incorporate a variety. The smorgasbord of treats will make for a great party spread - guests will enjoy filling their year with lots of luck.