A Traditional Southern New Year's Day Dinner

Start the New Year with these lucky southern food traditions

Mustard Greens With Ham
Photo: Diana Rattray

Many cultures and countries have their particular "lucky" foods, and the Southern US is no exception. Greens, black-eyed peas, cowpeas, or beans, pork, and cornbread are some of the typical symbolic foods served on New Year's Day. 

This is the perfect New Year's Day Dinner menu, with skillet cornbread, easily seasoned mustard greens, spicy black-eyed peas (Hoppin' John), hot cooked rice and a fabulous peach upside-down cake.

What to Eat on New Year's Day

According to popular folklore, if these foods are eaten on New Year's Day, they guarantee good luck throughout the year.

  • Peas or beans symbolize coins or wealth. Choose traditional black-eyed peas, lentils or beans to make a dish seasoned with pork, ham or sausage.
  • Greens resemble money, specifically folding money. Make dishes using boiled cabbage or sauerkraut, collard greens, kale, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens or other green, leafy vegetables to ensure good fortune for the coming year.
  • Pork is considered a sign of prosperity in some cultures because pigs root forward. This is probably the reason many Southern New Year's Day dishes contain pork or ham.
  • Cornbread might symbolize gold, and besides, it is essential with black-eyed peas and greens.
  • In other cultures, fish, grapes, and ring-shaped cakes or doughnuts or cakes with special treats inside symbolize luck.

What NOT to Eat on New Year's Day

  • Some believe that lobster could cause bad luck in the coming year because it moves in a backward direction and could mean setbacks in the year ahead.
  • For the same reason, chickens could be bad luck. They scratch backward, plus they are winged so your luck could fly away. 

New Year's Day Menu Suggestions


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