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JACKI LYDEN, host:

For most of us, tonight marks the end of weeks of holiday feasting. If you still have an appetite, it's not too late to defy the fates and eat your way to a lucky new year.

Our guide to foods lucky and not so lucky:

Ms. TANYA STEEL (Editor in Chief, Epicurious.com): I'm Tanya Steel, editor in chief of Epicurious.com.

LYDEN: Now, in the South, starting off the year with a dish of black-eyed peas is a good luck tradition. How this got started is a subject of debate, but Steel has a favorite story.

Ms. STEEL: During the Civil War in Vicksburg, Mississippi, the townspeople thought they'd run out of every possible morsel of food. So they were searching and searching, and they found some dried black-eyed peas, and that kind of saved the town.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: In Germany, eating pork is considered lucky for the new year. The German phrase for I've been lucky is Ich habe Schwein gehabt is the same as I've had a pig.

Ms. STEEL: Pigs are kind of rooted in the ground, and they're always moving forward. So they symbolize progress. And they have a very rich fat content, which really signifies kind of prosperity.

LYDEN: On the other side of the barnyard, Hungarians avoid eating chicken or other fowl that scratch the ground for food for fear that they would also scratch away good luck. Steel raises another reason why birds might be a bad new year's choice.

Ms. STEEL: So anything winged apparently is not good luck because that good luck could fly away from your house. So you don't want to do that.

LYDEN: And Steel's family has a personal dining aversion at the beginning of the new year.

Ms. STEEL: We've never eaten lobster on New Year's because it is considered luck merely because they move backwards and could apparently lead to setbacks in the new year.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: If you're looking for something lucky and something sweeter, there's a tradition that dates back to 1909, when farmers in the Spanish city of Alicante were faced with a surplus of grapes. With each of the 12 strokes of midnight on New Year's Day, revelers eat a grape, one for each month of the new year.

Ms. STEEL: The theory is that, say, one goes down badly or the fifth one is sour or the sixth one is going rotten, then that particular month is not going to be good.

LYDEN: Round or ring-shaped cakes and other baked goods may not lead to good health, but in Mexico or Greece, coin-like shapes are thought to ensure a prosperous year. Cakes there are baked with coins, and other surprises are hidden inside. The lucky finders get a year of good fortune as long as their dental work holds up. And then there's Steel's favorite lucky food for the new year.

Ms. STEEL: Pecan shortbread cookies, which are just a staple in our household. They are so delicious, and they bring good luck because we love to eat them. So the only thing that we have to worry about post-New Year's is on the foods that we've eaten to bring us luck in fact brought us extra pounds.

LYDEN: A perennial challenge just about everybody faces after the holidays. This year, though, maybe luck will be on our side.

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