New Year’s Day Meal

| January 1, 2012 | 13 Comments

The Traditional Southern New Years Day Meal:

NOTE:  This was one of our very first posts made when we launched our website on January 01, 2012. It’s a traditional meal here in the South and I hope you enjoy reading about it and trying some of our recipes.

A New Year… a time for new beginnings.  What is it about being able to start off a new year?

Maybe you had a great year and hate to see it end – or – maybe you just can’t wait for New Years Day to hopefully wipe the slate clean and just start all over again.  Either way, there’s just something special about New Years Day.

Here in the South, we try to start it off… with a plan. A plan that hopefully includes good health, good luck and good fortune.  Oh yeah, and good times with family and friends.

Growing up, I always heard that it meant you would have “Good Luck” in the New Year if a MAN visited your house first on New Year’s Day.  I’m not sure where that came from.  Maybe it was just a woman’s way of thinking as she hoped the New Year might finally bring her a husband.

Secondly, you always had to serve up the Traditional Southern New Years Day Meal.  What is that you ask?

Collard Greens
Black Eye Peas
Hog Jowl
Corn Bread

It’s a simple meal, it’s Southern, and it’s really good.  Click any of the above links to find out how to prepare and cook each one.

There are many varied stories about each particular part of the plate above.  Each is suppose to represent good luck and fortune going into the New Year.  Just how and when it all started will always be up for debate I guess.  Nonetheless, I’ll give it a go.

Collard Greens:

The collard greens are supposed to represent folding money.  Collards are green, so is our folding money.  It’s all about wealth, prosperity and good fortune as the New Year begins.  Some folks say the more collards you eat on New Year’s Day, the more prosperous you will become during the year ahead.

I’ve posted a recipe for collard greens here on Taste of Southern.  If you’ve read that, you will already know that I just personally DO NOT like collards.  It ain’t a secret in any way or form.  I hope you’ll read the post however, just to see how much I hate them and to learn why I made cooking collard greens the very FIRST post to start out our Taste of Southern website.

I will take a bite ever so often, mostly on New Year’s Day, but as for eating a bunch of them… well, maybe that explains my life of prosperity.  My mama loved them by the way.

Black Eye Peas:

The peas are also supposed to be a symbol of good luck.  Again, the more of them you eat, the more prosperity you’ll experience.

If you search the internet, you’ll find various stories as to why this is supposed to be true.  One of those is going back to Civil War times when the Union troops stripped the countryside of all stored food, crops, livestock and whatever else they could not carry away.  Northerners it seems, considered black eye peas, field peas, and field corn to only be good for feeding animals… thus… they didn’t steal it or destroy it.

As the story goes, this then was the only food, along with maybe some salt pork, that was available at the time and Southern soldiers lived off it for awhile.  It was their good luck to have had it.

I’ve read that some people thought placing a coin in the pot of cooked peas was also part of the tradition.  The person that found the coin in their plate was considered to be even more likely to prosper.  Mama never did this at our house so I have nothing to go by in that respect.

Peas also swell when they cook.  This again was a sign of increase.

Hog Jowl:

Hog Jowl is pork.  You could use ham, bacon, tenderloin or fatback along with your meal.

The important thing is to include pork as the meat of the day as opposed to some other animal meat.  Pigs it seems, root or forage in a forward direction.  This moving forward is seen as a symbol of moving forward in the New Year.  Serving chicken, or a winged animal that flies, would represent your fortune as possibly flying away from you.  So, make it pork whatever the cut of choice might be.  Mostly, it adds good flavor as a seasoning for your collards or black eye peas.

Hog Jowl is usually smoked, salted and cured.  It’s like bacon, only it has more fat than it has meat.  You can slice it up thin, fry it and just enjoy it as a meat addition to your meal.  Or, cut it into larger portions and add it to a pot of vegetables for flavor as a seasoning.

You’ll probably need to boil it some ahead of adding your peas to the pot to extract more of its flavor.  After you’re done, you can just remove it all together prior to serving.  Or, you may want to cut the boiled piece up, removing most of the fat and keeping the meatier parts and tossing them back into the pot.

Corn Bread:

Corn bread is just a good addition to any Southern meal.  Folks will argue over whether it should be white or yellow.  The yellow corn bread is thought to represent gold… thus adding more of a chance of good fortune and prosperity to the New Year.

Baking your cornbread in a round skillet forms a circle, like a cake.  It’s a continuous circle of prosperity.

A Poor Man’s Meal:

Many would consider this type of meal to be a “poor man’s meal.”  It was often thought that if you “Eat poor on New Years, you’ll eat fat the rest of the year.”

Whatever your reasons, eating this traditional New Year’s Day meal is a great way to start off any New Year.  It’s just the good thoughts behind starting off another year with a hope for prosperity and good fortune.

You’ll find complete recipes for each part of your Traditional Southern New Years Day Meal right here on Taste of Southern.  And of course, we’ll provide full photo and step-by-step instructions to help you prepare it.

Why not make this the year you start some new traditions at your house.  Cook up our New Years Day Meal for your family.  Just don’t forget the Sweet Tea.

Let’s Get Cooking!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on our New Years Day Meal menu.  Is it a part of your family traditions?  Please share your comments below.  Thank You.

NOTE:  This article first appeared on January 01, 2012 @12:25am.  It was part of the the original launching of our Taste of Southern website that began on that date.  Our Collards Recipe was the first recipe we created, and we only had about 5 other recipes completed and online when we made the official announcement to our family and friends that we had started a website about Southern Cooking.  We’ve strived to add one new recipe each week and have been very pleased to follow the growth of our work.  Thank You for your visit today.  I hope you’ll visit with us again real soon.  God Bless You!


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Category: Main Dishes, Pork

About the Author ()

Award Winning Food Preservationist, Fisherman, Online Contributor to Our State Magazine Newsletter.

Comments (13)

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  1. Bill Blake says:

    Happy New Year Steve,
    I’ve been reading your site for over a year now. I always enjoy the stories and recipes that remind me of simpler days and times. I grew up in Southeastern NC (Columbus County) and we too had this traditional New Years Day meal, a tradition I’ve continued as I’ve grown older.
    While the basics here are the same, Mom never added sugar to her collard greens and cornbread was pan fried (no sugar there either). While I’ve had the baked cornbread many times in my life I’ve never prepared it that way and decided to use your recipe. It was very tasty and I’m glad I decided to give it a try. I’m not sure I prefer it to what I’m accustomed to but it was certainly delicious.
    Thank you again for the entertainment and memories you’ve stirred for me in 2015 and hoping for many more in 2016.

  2. Dee Jones says:

    I live in coastal south Mississippi, and have a pot of blackeyes with leftover ham simmering on the stove as I type this. Fixing to pick some greens from my garden, and pick up a quart of buttermilk to make jalapeño cheese cornbread (yellow, of course). Thinking of making homemade ‘naner pudding for dessert.

    My Indiana-born and reared Grandma always had a big pot of hambone and some sort of beans, cornbread, greens and pork for New Year’s Day supper, but she said the reason for never serving chicken was because pork roots forward, but chickens scratch backwards. She also mentioned a copper penny in the pot, but I never saw this. I never knew if this was also a rural tradition in other areas besides the south, or if she adopted the custom on behalf of my West Virginian grandfather.

  3. Sandra Lowry says:

    Dear Steve,
    Glad you spent some time with your family on Christmas Eve and I understand your “alone” time on Christmas Day also. My husband and I were home alone Christmas and it was nice. Everyone needs time to themselves with their thoughts and memories.
    I have enjoyed all your stories and recipes this year and look forward to all the ones you will share with us in 2016. I hope you have a Happy, Healthy New Year!
    Thank you for all the inspiration you give us.
    Sandra Lowry

  4. Kathy Curtis says:

    Good morning Steve,

    I was born and raised in New York, however both my parents were from the south, Mississippi and Virginia. Every New Year my mother would prepare collard greens, black eye peas, chitlins, corn bread and peach cobbler (yum). Thursday I will be preparing the traditional New Years meal – the chitlins, knowing my parents (deceased) will be proud. I adore your stories. Have a blessed New Year.


  5. Mary says:

    Great article for New Year’s Day meal. Pinned and will be cooking it on Jan 1, 2016. Happy New Year!!!!!

  6. Brenda Sewell says:

    Just like you eat any pork, it doesn’t have to be hog Jowl. The same goes with greens, you can substitute cabbage. So a nice Cole slaw or cooked cabbage, yum. Enjoy reading your posts.

  7. Sally Vining says:

    We always cook collard greens. Hopping johns black eyed peas and corn fried in a old fashion skillet. I put red and green bell peppers onions and smokehouse ham hocks in my hopping johns, and I cut up green bell peppers, onion and sugar in my collard greens. The bell peppers give the collard greens a really good taste. Try putting bell peppers and sugar in your collard greens and you might like them cooked that way. I had a beautiful happy Christmas with family.
    Hope you have a happy and prosperous New Year.


  8. Jeanette Holleman Booth says:

    Hi Steve, I always enjoy your blogs including the recipes. I, too, am an original Central NC tarheel, transplanted many years ago to Gulf Coast Alabama. No collards for me either! I have the traditional New Years’ meal substituting turnip greens and tenderloin. Also, it would not be quite complete for me if I did not have raw onions sprinkled with apple cidar vinegar.

  9. Colm O'Higgins says:

    I do not like collard greens either, Steve, but I try a little on my plate. Up here in Canada it is entertaining to read your recipes and attempt to re-create them. Sometime I travel to the Carolinas (and other States) to friends in Kannapolis. Reidsville and Greensboro and their tables often have the delicacies you describe. 2016 here soon…Happy New Year !!

  10. Linda Smith says:

    I love reading Taste of Southern. I, too, have black eyed peas & cornbread for New Years Day. I don’t eat hog jowl. too fat. I substitute bacon or ham.

    Keep up the wonderful articles.

    Happy New Year.

  11. Linda Hayes says:

    Just love reading your stories, they bring back a lot of memories from my childhood. Happy New year

  12. Marlene Ashburn says:

    Hi Steve
    Greetings and New year wishes from Tennessee. As a transplanted Yankee, I had lots to learn from my southern born worked well and I blended her lessons with my Polish heritage.
    We do have black eyed peas which I generally make as hoppin John, a pork roast, potatoes, corn bread green salad. My husband doesn’t like any greens! The polish part was Christmas Eve with sauerkraut, fish, ham, pierogi and a green pea side which are made from dried green peas and cooked very gently to keep them whole!
    Wishing you all the best and keep up the recipes and newsletter…such fun!

  13. Sandra Lowry says:

    Hi Steve,
    Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Thank you for all the information about our New Year’s traditional dinner here in the South. I knew some of them but am happy to learn the others. I will be cooking all the ones you mentioned.

    I normally have turnip greens but will be having collards this year as my cousin gave me some from his garden already cooked and frozen. Black eyed peas and pork are always on the menu and I add stewed tomatoes, delicious with the peas! It will be a great day!

    Love your stories and recipes and wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

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