I’ve followed this tradition almost every year since childhood and I’m heading to my brother’s to have it later today. I knew the meal was supposed to bring good luck for the coming year, but not why or how it started. So yesterday when this article, Pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day: Why the PA Dutch believe it’s your luckiest meal of the year, popped up in my news feed naturally I was curious.
You can read the article for the details but, in a nutshell, it comes down to this: pigs root forward—symbolizing looking ahead– while chickens and turkey’s scratch backwards. The sauerkraut’s original green color symbolizes money.
Imagine my surprise, as I continued reading, when the food historian quoted by the author links this tradition to Lugh of the Long Arm, an important character in Irish mythology. Lugh was the original owner of one of the four treasures of the Tuatha de Danaan, the Gae Assail or Spear of Assail.
” He added that the idea that pork brings good luck along with it is actually pre-Christian and “deeply embedded” in Old World ideas about pigs and their animal form as a symbol of Lugh, an Irish deity who was believed to have controlled good luck, money and wealth.”
It turns out that Lugh is more than a jack-of-all- trades, a fierce warrior and a King, he is also the namesake of the Celtic Harvest Festival Lughnasadh and associated with wealth and prosperity.
The Irish considered pigs good luck because of their association with wealth and prosperity. After all, not everyone had the luxury of owning pigs. I also found this tidbit in another article:
” It was believed that pigs could see the wind rising, and if they gathered straws in their mouths, a big storm was coming. Pigs could cure warts; if you rubbed the wart with an apple and then gave it to a pig, you transferred it to them.”
So, today I found an interesting link between the Pennsylvania Dutch and Irish, two parts of my heritage. What traditions do your family follow on New Year’s? Do you know where they come from? I’d love to hear about it!