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New Year’s Foods For Good Luck

December 30, 2016 , , , ,



The tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day is common in the south. Strict traditionalists eat collard greens and pork with the peas (in a dish known as Hoppin’ John)to symbolize wealth,  folding money and coins. The use of black eyed peas in a ceremonial meal to assure good fortune and fertility dates back to Sephardic Jews who have eaten them at Rosh Hashanah for centuries.  The Sephardic tribes believe that  eating symbolic foods like pomegranate, squash, and dates on the new year will usher in good fortune and abundance for the year.  The black eyed pea has been cultivated for over 5,000 years.  They arrived in America with African slaves and were grown in the new world as food for slaves and animals.  Eventually they made it onto the master’s table.

Some say that the symbolic meal eaten on New Year’s Day is the one eaten by emancipated slaves on January 1, 1863.  There are many variations on the proper way to serve and eat this fortune enhancing meal.  Some say that the peas eaten without pork and greens will backfire and ruin your year.  I hope this is not true because I am a nice vegetarian girl who will always skip the pig part.  There are other cultures where pigs are symbols good luck and abundance.  In Germany a traditional gift of a Glückschwein or marzipan pig is gifted and eaten on the new year to keep the money flowing. Some say this is because a pig roots forward.  Some folks think the eating chicken or lobster on New Year’s Day will bring ill fortune due to the fact that these animals scratch or feed going backwards.  Why take a chance?  If you really feel like lobster or chicken you can wait for January 2nd. Lobsters aren’r kosher anyhow.

There are a few specific beliefs which may take the superstition too far:

  •  You cook them with a new dime or penny, or add it to the pot before serving. The person who receives the coin in their portion will be extra lucky.
  • You need to eat exactly 365 peas on New Year’s day. If you eat any less, you’ll only be lucky for that many days. I guess on leap years, you need to eat an extra one. If you eat any more than 365 peas, it turns those extra days into bad luck.
  • Some say you should leave one pea on your plate, to share your luck with someone else (more of the humbleness that peas seems to represent).
  • Others believe if you don’t eat every pea on your plate, your luck will be bad.

I don’t eat the greens or count the beans, but I do like to make Texas caviar for the occasion.  My mother was from Texas and this was the dish she used to make.  I think she put bacon in it.  It is served cold, and does go well with cornbread, another good luck food.  Cornbread represents gold.  You can choose the tradition that suits your tastebuds and your beliefs.  Just skip the chicken and lobster for a day, gentle readers.  You never know..

Texas Caviar

Texas Caviar


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I never knew that black eyed peas went back so far in history. I bet my husband would like Texas Caviar. definitely he likes cornbread. Wondering what if we just ate the cornbread?

Thanks for illuminating the history of good luck foods!


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

December 30, 2016

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