New Year’s Day is a time of renewal, but along with a new beginning come many different superstitions. Nearly every culture around the world has New Year superstitions associated with food. It is believed that if you follow the superstitions, you will have good luck and financial prosperity in the coming year.
In the Deep South, black-eyed peas and collard greens better be on the New Year’s table to bring good luck and financial prosperity in the coming year. But why black-eyed peas and collard greens? For at least 1,500 years, black-eyed peas have been considered good luck. It is thought the original tradition came from the Jewish custom to eat the peas during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. When they immigrated to Georgia, they brought the tradition with them.
Southern folklore says that the tradition started during the Civil War during General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” – from Atlanta to Savannah – destroying everything in his path. On the march, the Union army raided the Confederate food supply and left behind what they considered food fit for animals not humans. So, what was left? Salt pork and black-eyed peas. It is said that the survivors of the march considered themselves lucky to have food to get them through the winter, so that’s why they began to consider eating black-eyed peas cooked in salt pork lucky, eventually equating the dish with coins to bring financial fortune in the New Year.
As for the collard greens, from the coastal American South to Europe, people eat some variety of greens, which, because the color resembles cash, also implies the more you eat, the more prosperous the upcoming year will be.
In other countries, different superstitions ring-in the New Year. Lentils are eaten in Chile at midnight to gain a year filled with work and money. In the Netherlands, they eat Oliebollen, dough balls that have been fried and covered in icing. These tasty treats are traditionally eaten to placate evil spirits that fly through the mid-winter sky.
In Russia, the tradition is to write down a wish on a small piece of paper, then burn it put the ash into a flute of champagne, and drink up before 12:01. In Spain, people eat twelve grapes for twelve wishes with each strike of the clock at midnight. In Germany, Poland, and some Scandinavian countries, they eat pickled herring at midnight to ensure a year of bounty. The silver color of the herrings resembles coins for future fortune.
No matter what your New Year’s tradition is, cheers and good luck in 2018!