A look at New Years Food Traditions
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Have you heard “Eat poor on New Year’s, and eat fat the rest of the year.”
Every year growing up I could count on Black-eyed peas, Greens, a little pork and cornbread for the New Years meal. My mother said it was for good luck and prosperity during the year but I never knew why.
As an adult raising my own family I’ve included some of those traditions in my household as well as created new healthier ones. In honor of many southern and African American households I’m taken a look at the traditional New Years meal.
Why are black-eyed peas and greens traditional “lucky foods” for the New Years meal in Southern and African American households?
A brief history …
Black-eyed Peas – lucky to have them
As Union soldiers advanced into southern territories they raided the Confederate soldiers’ food supply. It is said they took the best and left behind black-eyed peas, corn and fatty pork, foods considered unworthy for human consumption, the “livestock food”. Confederate soldiers considered themselves lucky to have the peas as nourishment. They were seasoned with fatback, the Union soldiers also left behind, to give the peas flavor.
Also, Blackeyed Peas are dehydrated peas that must be soaked in water to expand, symbolic of how you want your money to expand or grow. Wish it worked with money.
Greens and Cornbread lucky for prosperity
The color of money – Green and Gold are why we eat greens and cornbread. Tradition claims:
- “If you want folding money in your pocket throughout the year, you’ll eat greens on New Years day.”
- Cornbread’s golden color symbolizes gold and coins or having pocket change or spending money.
Greens, collards in particular, are plentiful and a staple of southern cooking but did you know the ancient Greeks grew and ate collard greens? They maybe famous in the south but collards are actually eaten all over the world from Africa to India. They are a rich in Vitamin A & C and iron, too.
Cornmeal, a key ingredient in cornbread, was another one of those “livestock foods”. Sweet Cornbread is excellent finish to blackeyed peas, greens and pork the traditional New Years meal. As well as sopping up that pot likker too.
Pork for abundance and well-being
Eating pork on New Years for luck began as a German tradition. Pork is cooked and eaten with sauerkraut to bring blessings and wealth for the new year. Also, the pig is a symbol for good luck, well-being, fertility and abundance in many cultures.
Over the years my New Years meal has transformed to include fish, turkey for seasoning and seafood gumbo but it still includes the tradition of blackeyed peas, greens and sweet cornbread. My table wouldn’t be complete without them.
I’d love to know what’s on your menu. What’s your New Years food tradition?