Many in Middle Georgia make a tradition of feasting on black-eyed peas and collard greens for New Year’s Day, and some believe the meal will bring them good luck and fortune all year long.
Eating Southern-style food on Jan. 1 has been a lifelong tradition for Donna Blaxton, a special needs educator for Bibb County schools.
“Growing up, we always had black-eyed peas, collards and rice and tomatoes, and I still do that,” Blaxton said. “I season my black-eyed peas with either some bacon or ... ham flavoring, and I get a little piece of smoked ham at the grocery store to cook in my collard greens.”
As a child, Blaxton, now 56, said she believed eating greens, which are said to represent dollar bills, and black-eyed peas, which are said to represent coins, on the first day of the year would bring yearlong fortune.
Blaxton said she doesn’t believe that anymore, but it motivated her to clean her plate when she was young.
Like her parents, Blaxton always had ham on the New Year’s Day dinner table, but eight years ago she changed to pork steak instead.
“I (was) just tired of having ham at Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas,” Blaxton said.
In addition to pork steak and other Southern sides, Blaxton said she’ll serve cornbread, sweet tea and banana pudding to four people in her north Macon home.
Jonathan Glance, an English professor at Mercer University, is also cooking for four.
On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, Glance carried a bag of leafy greens to his car, parked in front of Kroger on Pio Nono Avenue.
“We’re having traditional pork, and beans and greens, but we’re doing Cuban pork chops, black beans and rice with the collards,” Glance said of his New Year’s Day menu. “Nobody really likes black-eyed peas in my family, (but) I can get them to eat beans and rice.”
Feasting on Jan. 1 has been a lifelong tradition for Glance, who grew up in North Carolina.
He said his father used to make Hoppin’ John, a dish with rice and black-eyed peas, every New Year’s Day.
“(My parents) had a winter garden and (cooked their) collards and mustard greens and turnip greens,” Glance said. “I think we were the only house on the street that did that.”
While collard greens are his favorite dish of the meal, Glance said it took a while for his wife and children to appreciate them.
“I maintain the (New Year’s Day meal) tradition despite some opposition over the years,” Glance said with a chuckle.
While the Glances won’t be dining on black-eyed peas Thursday, folks eating at S&S Cafeteria on Riverside Drive certainly will be.
On a typical day at lunchtime, S&S serves between 10 and 20 pounds of black-eyed peas, but much more than that will be needed to feed the expected crowd, said J.L. Henderson, the restaurant’s general manager.
“We’re going to start off with about 300 pounds of black-eyes on New Year’s Day and about 120 pounds of collard greens,” Henderson said. “Many of our customers just rave about the black-eyed peas. That’s one of the better vegetable items that we have here.”
Henderson said he spoke earlier this week with a customer who wanted to make sure S&S would be serving black-eyed peas Jan. 1. Henderson said he assured the woman, who told him she would drop by the cafeteria to eat her first lunch of the year.
Hog jowl, crackling cornbread and corn muffins also are popular items on Jan. 1 , Henderson said.
Born on a farm in south Alabama, Henderson said he personally celebrates New Year’s with food mostly because he enjoys traditional Southern fare.
“I’ve always heard, and this was passed down from my parents to me, that if you eat those (foods) on New Year’s Day, it’s supposed to bring you good luck for the coming year, and if you don’t, you’ll have your share of bad luck,” Henderson said. “Now, I’m not that much of a superstitious person, but, you know, it doesn’t hurt to play it safe.”