Black-eyed peas and greens: Why we eat special foods on New Year’s Day

Mama Steph’s spicy blackeyed pea - sausage soup with greens

(KLTV) - For as long as I can remember, I was taught that on Jan. 1, it was important to eat certain foods for good luck and prosperity. It was a tradition that my family never omitted on the first day of any year. First in importance, tradition says, is the inclusion of black-eyed peas in your New Year's Day menu.

The most widely told story says that during the Civil War, black-eyed peas were a prevalent crop in the South. The peas were primarily grown as food for livestock, and they did well in the soil and climate of the Southern states. The story that has been passed down for decades says that when General Sherman and his Union soldiers raided the Confederate soldiers’ food supply, they left behind the “livestock food,” the black-eyed peas, considering them unworthy of their own consumption. This left the Confederates with nourishment, and they considered themselves lucky to have the peas, as well as the fatback, which the Union soldiers also are said to have left behind.

Secondly, collard greens and cabbage are both considered lucky foods. They are said to represent green “folding money,” and by eating it, you open yourself up to prosperity in the new year.

The same is believed true of cornbread; its golden color might just bring gold into your new year, traditions says.

Lastly, pork, especially fatback or hog jowls, is said to bring good luck in the new year. Pigs are believed to be lucky in many cultures around the world, but in the South, the pork that most folks had readily available during the cold month of January was cured meat, like bacon and hog jowl meat, so this is what they’d eat on New Year’s Day.

Luckily for us, greens, cornbread, peas and salted pork of any kind go so well together, it makes our celebration of the New Year really satisfying and delicious.

Here are some recipes to help you eat your “lucky” New Year’s Day meal:

Mama Steph’s spicy blackeyed pea - sausage soup with greens

Dudley’s Cajun peas

Whether you believe these traditional foods will bring you luck or not, we hope you enjoy a meal on New Year’s Day with people you care about and have a great start to the year.

Share your recipes with us! Email them to webstaff@kltv.com so we can learn how you prepare these traditional foods in your own kitchen.

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