As 2016 comes to an end, the majority of us are now planning our New Year’s Eve festivities and New Year’s Day feasts. Growing up in Pennsylvania, it was considered all but a federal offense to not eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. It wasn’t until I moved to the Eastern Shore that I heard about the black-eyed pea tradition. This all begs the question, “why do I have to eat something special on New Year’s Day?” Curiosity got the best of me and, hence, this article was born.
Pork and Sauerkraut
Let’s start with the Pennsylvania Dutch. We have the Pennsylvania Dutch to thank for this New Year’s Day tradition of pork and sauerkraut. This tradition was brought to central Pennsylvania by German settlers. This is all well and good but it still doesn’t answer the question of “why?” According to Food Historian, William Woys Weaver, the superstition is that pigs “root forward” whereas chickens and turkeys scratch backwards. This “rooting forward” is a sign of moving forward and progress. The Pennsylvania Dutch are also known to say you’re in for a “sweet year” if you eat sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.
Then, I moved to the Eastern Shore and everyone mentioned eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. Having never heard of this tradition, I was tempted to learn more about the origin of this superstition. One such tale dates back to the Civil War. During the war, General Sherman’s Union troops decided the peas were beneath them and during a raid on the Confederates’ food supplies, they took everything they had aside from their black-eyed peas and some salted pork. The Confederates were thankful to have been left with anything and, even with scarce supplies, they miraculously survived the winter. This event lead people to associate black-eyed peas with good luck.
We even found an article on the many tales and superstitions surrounding black-eyed peas that discusses the proper preparation of said peas for the maximum amount of good luck! Did you know that some people say that the peas should be cooked with a new dime or penny and then whomever is served the coin in their meal will be extra lucky? The tale of the black-eyed pea just goes on and on.
Alright, so now it’s your turn! We’re sure there are a plethora of other New Year’s Day traditions and superstitions that we’re missing. What’s the tradition in your house?