By Jeff Burns
as with Christmas, New Year’s Day is celebrated with traditional foods
brought by the immigrants who settled America.
While there are many varied traditions, they all center around eating
foods designed to bring good fortune in the coming year, and there are three commonly
recurring themes: some kind of greens
(symbolizing both wealth and longevity), some food to represent gold or coins
(money), and pork.
these foods? Of course, a major reason
is the time of year. Green leafy
vegetables like collards, turnips, and cabbage are in season. Beans and peas, dried after summer harvest,
are readily available. Farm families
regularly marked the beginning of winter as “hog-killing” season. Also, pigs are associated with plumpness and
getting plenty to eat. Some traditions
hold that pigs symbolize good fortune because they are constantly rooting
forward, in new directions, in contrast to fowl’s habit of scratching
Across the South, people celebrate with
collard greens, turnips, mustard, or cabbage.
These days, maybe even a little kale will sneak in. To symbolize money, southerners eat some kind
of pea, usually black-eyed or field peas.
Hopping John, a dish combining peas and rice and cooked with hog jowls
or salt pork, has been around at least since the early 19th
century. Its origins are unclear, but it
was probably brought from Africa or the Caribbean; the name may be a corruption
of “pois a pigeon”, French for pigeon peas, common in the Caribbean. Hopping John was a staple among plantation
slaves, especially in coastal South Carolina. Cornbread’s golden color also represents
German settlers brought
their love of pork to Pennsylvania and the Appalachians. They also brought sauerkraut, which is the
traditional New Year’s green in Pennsylvania, New York, and New England.
Fish is the protein of
choice for some. In the Pacific
Northwest, salmon may be on the menu.
Some northern Europeans prefer herring or carp. Chinese families often celebrated with a
whole fish, symbolizing abundance in the coming year and long noodles,
representing long life.
Here are a couple of