A Southern New Year Tradition

Beths NY Headfer

Growing up in the South, New Year’s Day always consisted of a family meal of black-eyed peas, collard greens, some type of ham, and cornbread. The meal is said to bring health (hog jowl/ham), wealth (collards) and luck (black-eyed peas) into the coming year.

As an adult, every New Year’s Day I’ve spent away from Atlanta and family, I’ve continued the tradition and made the meal for my friends. My meal doesn’t typically include hog jowl or ham, because I don’t care for it much, but I throw some crispy bacon into the mix instead!

​As opposed to plain black-eyed peas, some Southerners eat Hoppin’ Johns on New Year’s Day, which is a black-eyed peas and rice dish, usually dressed up with onions, bacon, and seasoning. ​


In researching how this tradition came to be, I discovered that some say black-eyed peas represent coins, leafy greens represent bank notes and cornbread represents gold. I always thought cornbread was included because it’s so damn tasty, it should be included with most meals.

Some claim these traditions developed around the Civil War-era because the farms in the south grew a lot of greens and peas, and the Union troops regarded those crops as animal feed. Since both were abundant and nutrient heavy, it provided war-torn Southerners an inexpensive, hearty meal.


Regardless if you believe in the Southern superstitions of certain foods bringing health, wealth and luck on New Year’s Day or not, it’s always wonderful starting the new year celebrating with friends and family. Throw in some tasty collards, black-eyed peas, (ham), and cornbread, and it’s surely to be a yummy start to your new year! Catch the recipes below.

One of my favorites is repurposing leftovers, so if you have any leftover collards and black-eyed peas, throw them with some cheddar in a grilled cheese and it makes for a mighty fine sandwich. When I accidentally stumbled upon this creation last year, I excitedly shared it with my family, who promptly told me they thought it sounded gross. I stand by my sandwich and can’t wait to make it for a week straight this year with my left overs!


Best wishes for a very prosperous and happy 2016 y’all!


Collard Greens Recipe (Spring greens in the UK are the same)

I’ve used this stewed collard green recipe from Paula Deen which is really nice (I’ve used with or without bacon, for vegetarian friends) and easy. You can use a sweet onion in place of a Vidalia onion, if you can’t find that variety (an onion we grow in Georgia.)

Black-eyed Peas

Soak black-eyed peas overnight (8-12 hours). Drain and rinse in fresh water and bring to a rapid boil for 10 minutes. Season and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until soft.


This recipe is a firm favourite of mine. You find it on my SORTED profile.


Beth, originally from Atlanta GA, quit her job to follow her dream. She took a year-long round the world trip with her best friend, then decided to pursue her passion for baking and attend culinary school in London. Now a Pastry Chef and Food Writer, her travels are focused on exploring pastries around the world which she documents on her blog: Recipe For Adventures.


Twitter: @bemeyer

SORTEDfood: bethmeyer

  • Marchbanks

    Beth, I don’t think I can agree that collards and spring greens are the same thing, at all … unless you have a VERY different understanding of what “spring greens” means than I do. I know that as a American from the South you have intimate acquaintance with collards and mustards and turnips, so I won’t presume to lecture you–you don’t need it. But really … what is it you mean by “spring greens” here?? I’m bewildered.