Today’s the first day of the year. We had a traditional New Year’s Day dinner. We had pork shoulder/loin, sauerkraut, black eyed peas, warm dijon potato salad, and corn bread. Without fail, we have black eyed peas on New Year’s Day. My mom says that she grew up eating them and that they are supposed to bring you luck in the new year, so even if we don’t like them, she always makes us eat at least a spoonful. She also said that she came up with this year’s menu because her mom used to make pork and sauerkraut a lot when she was little. I looked up what the significance of this food was for the new year and here’s what I found.
Pork & Sauerkraut
This is a German custom. Pennsylania Dutch, of German descent, also serve these foods.
“Throughout history, the lowly cabbage has played side dish to the pig on New Year’s Day, not because it bears a special significance, but because it’s a tasty complement to pork. “It’s a traditional combination,” said William Weaver, an internationally known food historian who lives in Chester County. Any Pennsylvania German worth his or her salt knows pork is served on New Year’s Day because it brings good luck. With their snouts, pigs root forward, signifying progress, lore dictates, whereas chickens and turkeys scratch backward.”
—“Eat ‘sour cabbage’ for a sweet year; Having sauerkraut on New Year’s Day brings luck, some say,” Kathleen Parrish, Morning Call [Allentown: PA], January 1, 2004 (p. A1)
“In the nineteenth century, sauerkraut was a cold-weather food. Sauerkraut with fresh pork was a fall dish. Sauerkraut with turkey was a Christmas dish. And sauerkraut with pork was eaten for good luck on New Year’s Day, because, as the [Pennsylvania] Dutch say, “the pig roots forward.” Thus rooting forward into the new year, the Dutch ate sauerkraut with salt pork in the late winter, and finally, sauerkraut with fish in early spring.”
—Sauerkraut Yankees, William Woys Weaver [University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia] 1983 (p. 176)
Black Eyed Peas
According to Wikipedia, the tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a southern tradition. It started during the Civil War when Union soldiers destroyed or ate the South’s food.
“In the South during the Civil War the northern people thought that the black eyed peas were the cow’s food and so they left them in the fields. So the southerners had black eyed peas for dinner. They thought that was a stroke of luck. And the reason bacon or pork is used for flavoring is because hogs root, which represents pushing forward.
So, that’s it folks. That’s why pork, sauerkraut, and black eyed peas are considered lucky and eaten on New Year’s Day. May you have good luck and good fortune in the year ahead!