Now that Christmas has come and gone, the pine needles are meeting the vacuum. The trashcan is overflowing. Thoughts of last minute tax write offs are dancing through our heads. With New Year’s Day just a few days away, we are preparing for a fresh start ahead of us.
In the South, our holiday traditions continue on to New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Day we prepare a traditional meal for our families to welcome a new year of health and prosperity. What a perfect way to begin the new year together, gathered around the table enjoying good food with the people you love.
However, our southern New Year’s Day meal isn’t a random, ordinary meal. Each dish on the menu symbolizes something different that we hope the new year will bring us.
Our menu begins with collard greens.
Collard greens (or any kind of greens) represent money for the coming year. If you have never cooked collard greens, don’t be intimidated. The recipe can be as simple or complex as you like. I like this recipe.
Next come the black eyed peas.
The lovely cream colored peas with a black “eye” spot symbolize coins. Black eyed peas are something that I only eat once a year because they aren’t my personal favorite. But I have found a recipe that the rest of my family really enjoys.
Along with the peas and collards we have corn bread.
Corn bread is a staple of the southern dinner table. However, on the New Year’s Day table corn bread represents gold. In the South, everybody’s momma puts a different pinch of this or that into their recipe. Mostly I use a corn bread mix from a box. (Hush your mouth! I’m a busy person.) But I have used this recipe as well and it’s been a hit.
Last of the symbolic foods for the southern New Year’s Day menu is pork or ham.
The pork represents moving forward. A pig roots forward in the earth, unlike a cow that stands still or a chicken that scratches backwards. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what kind of pork is served. It could be a roast, pork chops, or a baked ham. I will admit that once in a hurry I even went to the deli and got some sliced ham. Most years we have a baked ham with a maple glaze.
Update: If you’d like to check out my Southern New Year’s Menu with a Twist, click here.