When it comes to New Year’s traditions for good luck luck and prosperity, there’s no shortage of practices around the world. From eating tamales to blowing cinnamon into your front door to lighting bayberry candles, many cultures have a tradition or ritual they engage in. And, this year, the lemon pig is in the spotlight.
So, here’s a bit about what the lemon piglet is, its history, and how to make one.
What Is the Lemon Pig?
The lemon pig is a cute pig made using a lemon, cloves, sticks or toothpicks, and perhaps a bit of tinfoil. It holds a coin in its mouth and is purported to bring good luck, though that belief seems to have started in the 1970s.
The Lemon Pig Wasn’t Always a Good Luck Charm
In 2017, the Twitter handle 70s Dinner Party reshared a photo from the 1971 book 401 Party and Holiday Ideas from Alcoa and people loved it. The book is a collection of holiday ideas from various cultures and religions, so that doesn’t give us much to go on. Except that Alcoa probably replaced the stick for the tail with tinfoil since they were an aluminum foil company. And, it seems, they added the coin.
The Alcoa book seems to be also the first mention of making the pigs for good luck. (Not a bad way to sell more tinfoil, tbh.)
Atlas Obscura did a deep dive on it and discovered “An 1882 magazine story [published in Ballou’s Monthly Magazine] described a nearly identical lemon pig, and newspapers in the 1890s instructed readers how to make them.”
In the tale, “Flibbertigibbet’s Journey,” the narrator tells how a little girl made the lemon pig as a present for the narrator’s mother. “She made the lemon pig herself. That is easy enough to do; you have only to stick four sticks in for the legs, a long pointed stick for the tail, and almost anything will do for eyes, two more sticks if you haven’t anything better.”
In the 19th and 20th century, it was a common craft idea for children, and they were popular enough that the 19th U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes received one while in office. That lemon pig, made with matchstick legs and a twine tail is still on display at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. The newsletter explains that the pigs were not just cute, but functional, as the lemon juice could be added to tea.
This year, it started gaining traction again. But, it never really went away, as evidenced by people sharing their images of their pigs from the past year passing the coin to the shiny new lemon piglet. Perhaps as a subtle nod to Father Time and Baby New Year.
How to Make a Lemon Pig
To make your own lemon pig, you’ll need the following items.
- 1 lemon
- 4-7 toothpicks or sticks
- 2 cloves (optional)
- tinfoil (optional)
- A shiny coin
- Take a lemon and insert four sticks or toothpick for the legs.
- Use a knife to cut two slits for the ears and one for the mouth
- Insert two cloves for the eyes (or use toothpicks)
- Insert a toothpick or use tinfoil to create the pig’s tail.
- Place a shiny coin in the pig’s mouth.
Here’s a video of chef Jacques Pépin making a lemon pig step-by-step.
Lemon Pig Inspiration Ideas
1. A fancy pig with a mustache and top hat.
2. A pig with a cocktail umbrella.
3. A lemon pig with raisins for eyes and almonds for ears.
4. An orange pig.