I guess I’m really like that every day of the year. If I make pot roast, I want mashed potatoes, gravy and bread. With ham, we have to have macaroni and cheese. With meatloaf, northern beans and mashed potatoes are the way to go, and the mashed potatoes have to have Hellmann’s mayonnaise in them. (Try it! It’s good!) The food habits run strong and deep for me.
New Year’s Day is a day of life-long food traditions for my family. I’ve eaten the same thing on New Year’s Day every year since I had teeth, except for one year when I missed it. (And you DON’T want to know what happened that year!) I have to eat it. It’s tradition. Many of you have some of the same traditional foods for New Year’s. We have to eat pork roast, black eyed peas, collard greens, sweet potatoes, cornbread, perlo rice and macaroni and cheese. Here are the superstitions behind this meal:
The pork is for good health. (That doesn’t really make sense, does it, since so many people say pork is unhealthy?)
The black eyed peas and collard greens are for wealth. The greens stand for bills, and the peas stand for coins.
The macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes are to kill the taste of the other foods. (This is the notyouraverageal version.)
The cornbread is to soak up the juices of the peas and greens so they don’t contaminate your macaroni. (Again, my superstition.) By the way, I really hate it when my foods touch, but I guess that’s a topic for a different day.
The perlo rice is because you have leftover juices from the pork so you might as well make rice. (Perlo rice, or at least my family's version of it, is rice cooked in the broth of meat instead of just plain water. We don't get enough fat from the meat, so we cook the leftover fat into our carbs.)
The peas and greens are a southern tradition. According to folklore, this meal dates back to the War of Northern Aggression, AKA the Civil War. The Yankees had stripped the lands of anything edible but had left behind black eyed peas and collard greens for the animals. The leftover peas and greens allowed the poor, victimized southerners to survive until new crops sprouted after the new year. (Come to think of it, this may be the South Carolina version of things. That’s where I learned my history, you know.)
Thinking about my upcoming meal made me start wondering about other food traditions around the world. Here are some traditions I found:
Pork is eaten by many cultures to symbolize progress. Since a pig moves forward as it digs, eating pork symbolizes moving forward.
Germans eat sauerkraut. (Don’t they do that every day?) Cabbage is associated with luck and wealth.
The Danish eat kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. (Um. Ew. Kale is gross.)
My BFF is from Ohio and has a Polish background. Her family eats pork and dumplings with sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. When we became friends, she taught me how to eat Yankee food, and I taught her to be southern. It was a friendship made in heaven.
In some Asian countries, they eat long noodles to get a long life. If you try it, you can’t break the noodle before it’s all in your mouth, or the long life thing is null and void.
In Mediterranean countries, people eat pomegranates for luck. I like my peas and greens better.
Then, I found some non-food traditions that were interesting.
In the Philippines, people believe wearing polka dots and decorating their tables with polka dots will bring them good luck. I’m pretty sure the Goose is part Filipino. At least, she was when she was three, because she loved polka dots (and stripes, together!).
In Ireland, single women put mistletoe leaves under their pillows to help them find a husband. (Sorry girls. This will not work to find a replacement for your husband. For that, you’re going to need something stronger.)
In Ecuador, people burn a scarecrow at midnight. This is to symbolize getting rid of all the bad from the past year. That’s actually not a bad idea. We’ve had a rough year…it might take a few scarecrows to do the job for us, but fire might not be the way to go.
In Denmark, people throw dishes at their neighbors’ front doors. Seriously. Who thought of this? Apparently, it is supposed to symbolize the fact that they have a lot of friends. There’s a store called Hallmark. Just sayin’.
In Bolivia, people wear colorful underwear. Red is usually the color of choice, but it’s at least got to be bright and bold. I guess colorful underwear helps you get lucky, er, I mean have good luck.
On that note, I’m outta here. Whatever your tradition is for New Year’s Day, I wish you health, wealth and happiness in 2013. Have a blessed new year! -Al