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The New Year's Meal

Micah Pickering
Leesville Daily Leader
This traditional New Year’s meal is eaten by many across the South.

The South has plenty of rich traditions passed down from generation to generation. As the holiday season draws to a close, a new year is right around the corner. 

While many people use New Year’s Eve as a time to party, New Year’s Day is typically a time to reflect on the past and dive headfirst into a brand new year of possibilities.

Many people across the South cook a traditional meal on New Year’s Day to bring them good fortune in the coming year. Drawing its origins from the 19th Century, the meal typically consists of black-eyed peas, cabbage, and cornbread. 

Each of the foods has a symbolic meaning for the New Year. The black-eyed peas have a different meaning for some people. 

Some believe they represent health, while other traditions dictate that the peas symbolize prosperity due to the fact that they swell when they are cooked. They are typically cooked with a hambone or some form of pork product for a strong flavor.  Aside from the flavor, the pork also has a symbolic meaning in the New Year’s meal. 

The pork is meant to represent a positive move into the new year. This meaning stems from the fact that pigs root forward when they are foraging. 

The cabbage represents wealth and financial well being in the New Year. Collard greens, mustard greens, and turnip greens are used as popular substitutes for the cabbage. The bright yellow cornbread is said to represent gold. 

Altogether, the meal is a staple of Southern soul food and is a great example of the rich folk heritage to be discovered in the South.