New Year’s Day Sauerkraut

Text: “On New Year’s day my family eats sauerkraut for good luck. It’s a German thing. We have smoked sausage and mashed potatoes with it. We’ve been doing this since I was a kid, and my mom did it as a kid as well. We do it for good luck. To start the year off right.” 

Context: The informant grew up in Ohio and his parents did as well. His mom is part German, and passed on some of her German traditions to her kids. His mom grew up in Hamilton, Ohio where there is a portion of town called “Germantown” because a lot of German immigrants settled there. The German tradition is thought to bring about good luck and was brought to his Midwest my immigrants.

Analysis: For many people, the new year is an opportunity to make changes, set positive intentions, and start over, in a sense. And so, many rituals often surround the idea of prosperity and good fortune—This tradition does just that. Sauerkraut is believed to have certain healing properties including improved liver function, removal of bacteria and parasite, and is even thought to prohibit the growth of cancer. And so, I believe that the tradition of eating sauerkraut in the new year is done so in hopes of bringing good health and good luck in the new year.