Guest Author - Amelia Maness-Gilliland
For many the New Year offers an opportunity to make a fresh start, let go of the past year and set fresh goals. Many even choose a guiding word for the coming year to symbolize what they want to focus on in the New Year. To mark the New Year and to increase your good fortune, why not enjoy a meal to get your year started off right? There are a variety of foods that are believed to be lucky and that improve the odds that next year will be a great one. These good fortune traditions vary from one area of the country to the next. Here in the South that meal that is believed to bring good fortune with it is a hearty serving of black eyed peas, pork, greens or cabbage
In the South it's traditional to eat black-eyed peas, a dish called Hoppin' John. This tradition is traced back to a legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Virginia, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky.
Eating cooked greens is not unique to the South, in fact people from different countries in varying greens including cabbage, collards, kale, and chard, are consumed at New Year's. The reason is simple, their green leaves look like folded money, and are thus symbolic of economic fortune. In the southern United States, collards are the green of choice. It's widely believed the quantity of greens east on the first day of the year is directly proportion to the amount of good fortune you will experience in the coming year.
The custom of eating pork on New Year's is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Like greens, port is not a uniquely Southern tradition. Pork is also consumed in many countries for the same belief that it will bring good fortune. In the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, eating pork signifies wealth and prosperity. Here in the South we stick to Baked Ham or pork chops.
While eating foods to increase your good fortune are closely held traditions in the South, there are foods that are considered unlucky, chicken being one of these. Because chickens scratch backwards it is believed that eating chicken on New Years day will cause regret or dwelling in the past. Finally, avoid eating winged foul on the first day of the year unless you want to risk your good luck flying away.