Some of you may know where I am going with this. Some of you are confused but intrigued. New Years Day dinner in black families around the world today will consist of collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread.
Growing up I can always remember that is what we ate on New Years Day. I never knew why until I was older. I wasn’t a fan of collard greens and black-eyed peas as a kid. But I was reminded that there were starving kids in Africa. And I was thinking let’s send them these collard greens and black-eyed peas then. But I would always have to eat a spoonful of each. But why?
After talking with my older relatives in my family I found out that this was a tradition that started many years ago. Many southern farmers would prepare this meal. There is a meaning behind eating these particular foods on New Years Day.
First, the black-eyed peas are for luck in the new year. Black-eyed peas were viewed as a humble food. The expression “Eat poor on New Years and eat fat for the rest of the year” comes from that reasoning. The dry black-eyed peas were also viewed as coins. But when you cook the peas they expand. That expansion symbolized the increase of wealth that you would receive throughout the upcoming year.
Next, the collard greens symbolize money of course. Any greens will do mustard greens or turnip greens will work. We were eating these foods to claim wealth for our families and start the year off on a positive note.
Finally, the cornbread and pork completed the meal. “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars and cornbread for gold.” I have heard people say that some will throw a dime in the pot of peas. And whoever ends up with the dime in their serving will receive extra luck during the year. If we tried that at my house I would end up having to do the Heimlich maneuver on one of the kids.
This tradition is still practiced today and is passed on to younger generations. It is a part of our heritage and culture. It is a time for us to come together as a family and enjoy some comfort soul food as we face a new year.
This reminds me of the rich history of storytelling and of folktales in our culture. We knew our help came from God and He was our provider. This traditional meal and symbolism still continues today.
I forgot to buy my collard greens and black-eyed peas this year. But I know where to go today to have a spoonful. Just sharing a quick history lesson with you all.
Happy New Year
Tomorrow’s blog – Where’s My Trophy?