Ever wonder why Southerners eat black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day? This year, I thought it might be a good idea to find out. Maybe I’ve been tempting fate all these years. Maybe I’ll have a lucky 2011 if I eat black-eyed peas and collard greens, too.
Like most century-old traditions, there seems to be more than one theory how this ritual originated. Some say that when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st in 1863, the southern slaves celebrated with what they had on hand — black
eyed peas, collard greens and ham hock. Others believe it’s an adaptation of the Jewish tradition of eating black-eyed peas on Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year. Most likely, southerners ring in the New Year with collard greens and black-eyed peas because that’s what is abundant in January. (The greens are thought to be a symbol of money and the black eyed peas are a symbol of good luck.) If you can’t get your hands on black-eyed peas, lentils are also considered good luck because they’re apparently reminiscent of coins. In America and Europe, fish is also considered good luck because it swims forward. Whatever you do, don’t eat turkey or chicken on New Year’s Day. They’re bad luck because they “scratch in dirt.” Not to mention that chickens scratch backwards and iwe all want to move forward, not backward, in the new year. Pigs move forward, too, so pork belly, pork shoulder, bacon, pig’s feet, and trotter are all lucky dining options. (Perhaps we should all head to The Breslin for April Bloomfield’s pork-rich menu for New Year’s brunch. Don’t eat steak either or any cow parts at all because cows stand still and you don’t want to get stuck in a rut. Oh and when the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve, eat twelve sweet grapes — one for every month of the year. If you get a sour grape, you might have a sour month.
I had no idea how many New Year’s superstitions there are and how many of them involve food, so I’ve compiled a list of foods to eat on New Year’s Day ensure that you have good luck in 2011. Better safe than sorry, right? We’ve got a lot of eating to do. (I guess our diet resolution will have to wait until January 2nd.)
New Year’s Good Luck Foods From Around the World
- 12 grapes – One for Every Month of the Year (Spanish tradition)
- Black-eyed Peas and Collard Greens – For Good Luck and Prosperity (A Southern Tradition)
- Boiled Rice (A Southern Indian tradition)
- Snapper – The Color of the Skin is Considered Good Luck (Japanese tradition)
- Fish – Fish Move Forward, so you will progress
- Rice Pudding with an almond in the center
- Circular Breads and foods are lucky – They symbolize the circle of life
- Pancakes – A stack for good luck because they’re circular (French Tradition)
- Peta Cake – Whoever Finds the Coin Baked in the Middle Will Have Good Luck and Fortune (Greek Tradition)
- Pomegranates – Symbolize Abundance (Middle Eastern Tradition)
- Lentils – Because they symbolize coins and wealth (Italian Tradition)
- Citrus – The Chinese word for tangerine and orange sound a lot like the Chinese words for luck and wealth (Chinese Tradition)
And always leave a bite or two on your plate to assure you have food for the rest of the year. Finish your plate and you may go hungry in 2011.