The traditional options of collard greens and black-eyed peas are as synonymous with New Year’s as is the ball drop in Times Square and a day full of college football.
Eating the two foods on the first day of the year is said to encourage financial stability for the next 12 months.
Collard greens, with their leafy appearance and resemblance to folded money, represent dollar bills, and the belief is that the more one eats, the more money will come along.
Black-eyed peas are just one of the types of legumes that are consumed in different cultures with the idea that they look like coins. The swelling of the peas as they cook symbolizes prosperity during the coming year.
Though collard greens are considered the green of choice to go with black-eyed peas, some could also consider substituting turnip or mustard greens for the holiday meal.
Many families also will make sure pork is included in a New Year’s Day feast.
From hog jowls to chitlins and regular pork chops, the Southern tradition of including pork products is thought to symbolize positive motion, since pigs root forward when foraging.
Pork also goes right along with the themes carried by collard greens and black-eyed peas as it signifies wealth and prosperity thanks to its rich fat content.
Historians point to writings in the Babylonian Talmud as one possible beginning of the tradition, when Jews were encouraged to eat gourds, leeks, black-eyed peas, dates and either beets or spinach to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.
Sephardic Jews came to the United States and settled in Georgia in the 1730s. The Jewish practice is thought to have been adopted by non-Jews around the time of the Civil War.
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