January 1, 1997
The customs associated with New Year's Day involve, for the most part, practices that are supposed to affect the whole of this year. And one important folk belief focuses on what one eats today.
This is Calendar Lore for January first. People in the South, of course, generally identify black-eyed peas as the required menu item to insure good luck for all of 1997. Some people observe permutations of this custom. A Tennessee woman, for instance, recalled, "We always ate hog jowl and black-eyed peas on New year's Day for good luck. Many people say you should put a dime in the peas. but we never did that." Other Southerners enjoy their black-eyed peas with cabbage or with turnip greens, some suggesting that eating the latter will guarantee the eater plenty of folding money for the year. Alternative addtions to the New Year's Day peas may be rice or peaches.
In parts of the country where black-eyed peas aren't regarded as a delicacy, cabbage--often cooked with pork--may be recommended for consumption today. In German regions of the midwest, the cabbage may take the form of sauerkraut. An explanation offered for why pork appears with the cabbage argues that it symbolized the "forward look" that one should have this time of year, since while fowl scratch backward in thier scavenging for food, a pig roots forward. More prosaically, one might note that pork, was often the only meat available during winter in days before refrigeration.
Another dietary custom anong German Americans had one eat a piece of herring exactly at the stroke of midnight to guarantee a year's worth of good luck.