New Years in the South is different than anywhere else. They do things differently than the rest of the country. Mainly it's in the way that they treat family, which if you know Suthunaz, their family is anyone they know. It's that 'extended family' thing that's goin' on. New years is as much a time for family (EXTENDED family) than anytime else. Oh sure, you can go out and get a nice dinner and then a show with just about any type of live entertainment you want. Country, Punk Rock, Classic Rock - Nashville even has its own Coyote Ugly! Now that's a way to celebrate!
Growing up, I remember watching Dick Clark on TV and drinking sparkling Grape Juice out of paper cups. When I got to be an adult, my celebration changed to a night out on the town and good champagne in glass flutes. When I got to Nashville, I attended one of these big New Years Extended Family Celebrations and when the big clock on the wall had struck 12 and hugs and kisses were passed out, there came a time for eating. It was here that I discovered something no one has written about in Suthun Celebrations.
A table was brought out, with steam tables and heat lamps keeping warm what we had to eat: Black Eyed Peas and Cornbread. I thought this was unusual, but everyone else dug in, so I had to ask. Seems this is a big tradition in the US South, so I happily complied.
Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring prosperity in the coming year. The peas are typically cooked with a pork product for flavoring (such as bacon, ham bones, fatback, or hog jowl), diced onion, and served with a hot chili sauce or a pepper-flavored vinegar.
This traditional first meal of the new year can also feature collard, turnip, or mustard greens, and ham. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion. Cornbread also often accompanies this meal.
These "good luck" traditions date back to the American Civil War better known in these parts as the War of Northern Aggression. Union troops, especially in areas targeted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, typically stripped the countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock, and destroyed whatever they couldn't carry away. At that time, Northerners considered "field peas" and field corn suitable only for animal feed, and didn't steal or destroy these humble foods. It was these 'leftovers' that gave rise to the traditions we see today.
Every day I live here, I love the south more.
Happy New Year to you all (or it is Y'all...I can never tell) Oh and save me some Cornbread and Black Eyed Peas!