According to Southern tradition, a New Year’s Eve supper full of greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and pork will bring you fortune in the year to come. Here’s where the traditions came from and how to enjoy them right!
Greens and Black-Eyed Peas
These two Southern classics all but guarantee a prosperous year. Some say the greens represent dollar bills and the peas, coins, ensuring wealth and luck. According to folklore, this auspicious New Year’s Day tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops pillaged the land, leaving behind only black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder. Rich in nutrients, these were the humble foods that enabled Southerners to survive. Details of stories differ, but each celebrates a communion of family and friends bound by grateful hearts and renewed hope for good things yet to come.
Be sure to save a few uncooked greens to tack to the ceiling for good luck or hang over the door to ward off evil spirits.
Some say it symbolizes gold, and cook it with whole corn kernels inside to represent gold nuggets. Native Americans were the first to bake a cornmeal mixture, and Southerners made it daily when wheat was a rarity in the region. For authentic Southern flavor, choose a recipe that uses little, if any, sugar and flour, and don’t forget the cracklings!
The more pork and ham in your meal, the more luck you will have. Because of the amount of fat in pork, it is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Some people also say that because a pig uses its’ snout to dig in the ground while moving forward, eating pork on New Year’s signifies progress and moving forward. So don’t just use ham hock and fatback to flavor your veggies; eat a baked ham or pork chops as a main dish.
Another important rule to follow is to eat as much lucky food as possible, but leave some on your plate and for leftovers (if possible!) This is a symbol of frugality and increases your chances of prosperity in the coming year.
What else do you do on New Year’s to ensure good fortune?