New Year's Day Prosperity Ritual
All over the South people eat a meal of collard greens, cornbread, and black-eyed peas to ensure their prosperity and protection in the coming year. Symbolically, the greens are said to represent green 'paper money'; the corn, being yellow, represents gold or coins; and the black-eyed peas, each possessing an eye, is said to protect you from negativity and bad luck (especially in the form of the evil eye).
Interestingly, a silver dime is often placed in the black-eyed peas, and the person who by chance is served the dime is said to be especially lucky that year, and he or she will keep the dime as a lucky token throughout the year.
On a personal note, growing up in the South our grandmother's often told us that 'what you do on New Year's Day, you'll be doing all year,' therefore we were never to wash clothes, do housework, or anything else we wouldn’t want to be doing on a daily basis.
Hoppin' John for Good Luck
Dose black-eyed peas is lucky,
When e’t on New Year’s Day,
You allus has sweet ‘taters,
An’ ‘possum come yore way.
~African American folk rhyme
On New Year’s Day many people make the dish called Hoppin' John along with collard greens to insure prosperity and abundance for the New Year. Because black-eyed peas swell when soaked in water, they represent abundance, magically speaking. Reportedly a favorite of Marie Laveau’s, Hoppin' John is a traditional Southern food prepared on New Year’s Day for it’s luck drawing qualities. The name Hoppin' John is thought to refer to the Southern folk hero, High John the Conqueror.
Soak black-eyed peas overnight in water. Fry bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Add 1 1/2 cups onions, and cook until the onions are transparent. Add 2 1/2 quarts water, bring to boil. Add garlic cloves, Maison Louisianne Creole Spice Blend, thyme, bay leaf, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Drain peas and add the boiling mixture. Barely simmer mixture, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hour. Add 2 cups raw rice. Serve with crisp French bread. Enjoy!