What could be more exciting than a New Year that is headed toward better prosperity? In Italy, serving lentils helps that possibility along. If you've enjoyed lentils, you know these small legumes are flat and round. In fact, they remind some people of coins, and thus lentil soup is considered prosperity-boosting. According to celebrity cookbook author Nigella Lawson, a spicy sausage called cotechino typically accompanies the lentils [source: NPR]. After a night of partying and toasting in the New Year, a hearty meal is perhaps just what the doctor ordered.
Grapes also play a big part in a New Year celebration, and Italians try to consume as many as possible at midnight, when the New Year officially begins, with the grapes symbolizing a year of good health. In Spain and Malta, Lawson notes, the grape-eating is more measured and tradition and superstition calls for eating one grape for each month of the coming year to bring about health. In Italy, though, the more grapes you can consume, the better.
The Chinese also want their dose of good luck. See how they do it on the next page.