Ring in the New Year With a Good Luck Pig - Gastro Obscura

Ring in the New Year With a Good Luck Pig

Whether roast pork or marzipan, a pig is a symbol of good fortune.

A selection of German <em>Glückschweine</em>.
A selection of German Glückschweine. Geolina163/CC BY-SA 4.0

Around the world, lucky foods for the new year range from collard greens (representing green cash) to long noodles (representing a lengthy lifespan.) But for many cultures, pork is the pièce de résistance for welcoming the New Year. From Cuban roast pig to Okinawan sparerib or pig’s feet soup, the luxurious richness of pork starts the year on a high note, and in several cases, pigs or pork serve as annual good luck charms.

In Lancaster County, a node of the Pennsylvania Dutch, locals spend New Year’s Day feasting on roast pork and sauerkraut. While ham and turkey are common holiday fare, the pork serves a potent symbolic purpose, according to local lore. Turkeys scratch dirt backwards while foraging, yet pigs do the opposite: rooting forwards towards the future. That said, the tradition’s origins are likely more pragmatic. In Germany, the ancestral home of the Pennsylvania Dutch, pigs were slaughtered in the winter. This provided a brief window when fresh meat was available, some of which could be saved for celebratory holiday meals.

<em>Soki soba</em> is made with pig's feet and eaten on January 1 in Okinawa.
Soki soba is made with pig’s feet and eaten on January 1 in Okinawa. ayustety/CC BY-SA 2.0

This isn’t the sole German association between pigs and good luck, though. During Christmas and New Years’s, marzipan pigs are a beloved treat and popular gift. Sculpted from almond paste and colored bright pink, the pigs do double duty as charms. One phrase for lucky is even schwein haben (“got pig”), since any farmer wealthy enough to own a plethora of pigs was surely fortunate. Sweet piggy marzipan is also a custom in Norway and Denmark.

A lemon pig for porcine fortune in the new year.
A lemon pig for porcine fortune in the new year. Courtesy of Twig

But last year, some people began celebrating the pig in a less meaty way—a tradition recurring currently. On Twitter, people are displaying lemons carved and decorated to resemble pigs, inspired by a craft project unearthed from a 70’s cookbook. With pennies in their mouths and a curly tinfoil tails, the pigs are intended to bring luck (and presumably wealth) to 2019, which, appropriately, is the Year of the Pig.

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