Why Are Pork And Sauerkraut A New Year's Tradition?

Love it or hate it, each year, there's a holiday that's celebrated all over the world. Yes, we're talking about New Year's, with its endless barrage of toasts, sparkly clothing and insert-year-here glasses, and lots of tasty food. And just as turkey is a staple for Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year's also has its share of traditional foods and dishes around the world, and many of them are supposed to bring you good fortune in the 12 months ahead.

In Japan, people eat long soba noodles because they represent prosperity and longevity, CNN reports. In Italy, cooks like to prepare cotechino con lenticchie, a dish symbolizing wealth that consists of sausages and lentils, which are said to be good luck for the New Year. And if you're in Mexico, you'll probably eat delicious tamales on New Year's Eve and Day, often prepared by a large group of cooks and served with a tripe and hominy soup called menudo. 

Throughout the world, individual ingredients have certain connotations for the new year. For example, some consider lobster "unlucky," and many people use pomegranates to predict their upcoming fortune. For several families in the U.S., pork and sauerkraut are staples of every New Year's tradition. But what do these seemingly ordinary foods mean?

Pork and cabbage are lucky foods

Sauerkraut is another word for fermented cabbage, a dish that's popular in Germany and widespread throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The cabbage is finely sliced, then sprinkled with salt and left to ferment. The wintertime staple can be enjoyed raw or cooked and is beloved for its gut-supporting health benefits. Ever since European immigrants brought sauerkraut over to the U.S. in the 17th and 18th centuries, the crunchy dish has become the stuff of Stateside tradition.

Cabbage (AKA future sauerkraut) is round, a shape that brings good luck (just like lentils), per Reader's Digest. Further, its green color is associated with money, yet another reason to eat cabbage or sauerkraut on New Year's. And what goes best with sauerkraut? Of course, it's pork, which is another lucky ingredient: Pigs move forward when finding food, symbolizing an onward path for the new year. Additionally, pork is quite fatty, and rich foods are typically eaten by the prosperous.

It's no wonder people eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's, as the combination provides good luck and future riches on a single plate. "Pork and sauerkraut" is a pretty loose recipe open to interpretation by celebrators, but on Reddit, people revealed that the slow cooker is a popular vessel for cooking the sauerkraut with your choice of pork — ribs, loin, or butt — and beloved accompaniments include mashed potatoes, black eyed peas, and cooked apples.