The South is a region of long-held superstitions, and Mississippi is no exception. Some Southerners paint their porch ceilings light blue to stave off the “haints.” Visit a paint supply store, and you will find a beautiful shade of blue paint called “haint,” which is Southern-inspired, to be sure. Some folks hang mirrors outside their gardens and save old wine or sparkling water bottles to put on dead tree branches for the same reason. Inviting 13 guests to dinner is unheard of, and of course, never leave a rocking chair in motion. Some Mississippians might be superstitious, others might be slightly “stitious,” and several of us simply enjoy the folklore.
A tried and true tradition is eating black-eyed peas and cabbage or collard greens in some form on New Year’s Day. If you’re going grocery shopping this week, you will notice the black-eyed peas and cabbage are front and center and will be hard to find come New Year’s Eve morning.
According to legendary Southern food researcher John Egerton: “In history, black-eyed peas are associated with a mystical and mythical power to bring good luck and have been a Southern staple for over three centuries.” As for cabbage or collard greens, they’re green like money and have been said to ensure a financially prosperous new year.
Jewish people ate black-eyed peas for hundreds of years for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. However, cooking black-eyed peas with rice is African in origin. This tradition spread throughout the South, especially in the Carolinas, in rice dishes served with chicken or shrimp. When black-eyed peas were added to the meal, it became “Hoppin’ John.”
Serving black-eyed peas with cornbread is said to represent gold. Throw in some stewed tomatoes, and the combination symbolizes health and wealth. Some people will even go as far as adding a penny or a dime inside their pot of peas, with the notion that whoever receives the coin will have the most luck for the rest of the year.
This traditional New Year’s Day meal is one family and friends enjoy cooking together as they celebrate the New Year. However, this tradition isn’t confined to just the home. As the New Year approaches, you’ll find black-eyed peas and collard greens or cabbage on restaurant menus and daily specials throughout the state. At the end of the day, who doesn’t want health and prosperity? Add some black-eyes peas and cabbage to your New Year’s Day meal and see what happens. Oh, and don’t forget the cornbread!