The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #87654   Message #1638684
Posted By: Azizi
01-Jan-06 - 07:47 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: Good Luck for the New Year
Subject: RE: Folklore: Good Luck for the New Year
When I was growing up [Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1950s] the New Year's Eve custom in my African American house was for the adults to eat black-eye peas, pigs feet or ham hocks, or hogmogs. Greens {collard greens or kale or a mixture of the kale or collards} and/or cabbage was an important part of this New Year Eve meal. Cornbread might also be added to this meal.

From my mother and from many written sources, I have learned that this custom was said to bring "good luck". Here are my theories about the meaning of these customs:

"Greens" {including cabbage} symbolize wealth. This makes sense since greens and cabbage are the color green and green is the [only] color of dollar bills in the USA.

"Black eye peas" were customary -insead of other peas or beans-because the black eye on the peas symbolizes the black eye which wards off evil spirits.

"Pig's feet was eaten on New Year's Eve because they symbolize good health. {My mother shared this belief with me as well as the belief about why 'greens' were eaten on New Year's Eve}

I wonder if eating a pig's feet has any association with the folk saying about standing on one's own feet}. If so, maybe it was added after the fact. My guess is that the origin of this custom of eating pigs feet and other less favored parts of the pig started during slavery because besides chicken and possum, these were the only sources of meat that most enslaved African Americans could hope for {and many times that was only a hope}. So if pigs feet and the parts of the pig that the White people didn't want was the only available source of protein enslaved people had, it did provide nourishment.

Note: I haven't kept this custom of eating pigs' feet, greens, and black eye peas on New Year's Eve. And I don't know too many African Americans who have. The only food on that list that I eat are greens and cabbage. I don't eat pork for nutritional reasons, and I never liked the taste of black eye peas.However, if I had been a slave,
I probably would have been glad to eat pig feet, and black eye peas. And I honor my ancestors who did.