New Year's Luck Customs

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catherine yronwode

Dec 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/30/96


At New Year's of 1996 a discussion on the Southern U.S. custom
of eating black-eyed peas (Vigna spp.) on New Year's Day ran in
alt.lucky.w. The bean dish, sometimes called Hoppin' John --
and sometimes made with other edible beans (Phaseolus spp.) --
is in the United States tangentially associated with the old
Scottish and British custom of First Footing. Here is the text of
the collected posts on New Year's Beans and First Footing, plus a
bonus on the New Year's luckiness of red beans (Phaseolus spp.)
in Japan.


catherine yronwode wrote:

I was once married to a man from Alabama and i seem to recall
that he told me the first meal of the New Year should be
black-eyed peas, for good luck in the following year...Can anyone
refresh my memory?


H. Thornton wrote:

Yes, indeed, black-eyed peas. For prosperity, specifically, at least
here in West Texas.


Jim Eikner wrote:

Indeed, it seems to be a wide-spread custom in Texas. Yesterday
we cooked a pot of peas most of the day using the bone from a
Christmas ham. At the stroke of midnight, the entire family
toasted each other with champagne and consumed a bowl of
black-eyed peas. For maximum good luck in the new year, the
first thing you eat on New Year's Day *must* be the peas. "Texas
Caviar," a spicy relish made from pickled black-eyes, is served by
many clubs as part of the annual festivities.

The custom must have been around for a while. My family
observed it when I was a child, and I'm forty-something now.
Neither of my parents was originally from Texas, but they were
familiar with the custom before they moved here from the Deep
South. My mom, from Georgia, also insisted on making rutabaga
pot licker on New Year's, for the same reason.


Fred Burke wrote:

Absolutely! The luck of black-eyed peas is definitely alive and
well in Texas as a New Year's tradition. I also recall reading, in a
long ago newspaper somewhere, that the tradition was started by
a grocer with a large stock of black-eyed peas. Or a canner. Or a
Black-Eyed Pea Association. Or something like that.

Today I will make my annual pilgrimmage to the grocery to try
to find this Texas staple (which is displayed by the check-out line
and at the end of rows in many Austin stores for the holiday,
just like cranberry sauce and yams at Thanksgiving).


Susan Profit wrote (and i have edited this a bit):

Some folks in the South open every door and window at the
stroke of midnight to let out any residual bad luck. They make a
loud ruckus banging on pots and pans, setting off fireworks and
take part in other noisy activities to chase it far away.

Some folks still take part in the Scots custom from Hogmany of
first footing -- the first person to set foot over your threshold on
the New Year sets the luck for the year. Good looking men and
women, children with birthdays on the day itself were among
others considered to be good luck, and folks that fit the local
criteria (new brides, new mothers, the local preacher, or lacking
anoyone else, someone who was healthy) would go from house
to house treated to drink and good food while they were invited
to be the first over the threshold. (Why leave anything as
important as luck to chance, eh?)

In some parts, folks go back inside and for luck they chow down
on a rich bean soup called Hoppin' John, made of black eyed peas
simmered with spicy sausages and tomato sauce. Recipes vary,
(variations often determined by what was on hand) but this one
is from my mother, who is from Missouri:

1 cup (250 mg) dried black-eyed peas, chick peas, or
white 'Navy' beans
4 cups (1 liter) of boiling water
3 medium onions diced coarsely
1/2 pound (225 gms) each salt pork and spicy
sausage, sliced into thumbnail sized cubes
1 cup (250mg) mixed rice and barley
Salt, pepper and hot cayenne sauce to taste
Optional: 1/2 cup (125 ml) molasses and 1 cup (250
ml) stewed tomatoes

Pour boiling water over the peas, let sit for 1 hour.
Place on the stove on low heat or in the
crock-pot/slow-cooker. Throw in onions, meat,
rice/barley, tomatoes and molasses. Simmer until
the beans have gone so soft they are falling apart,
usually around 18-24 hours. Add hot sauce, salt,
and pepper in the last half hour before serving.

Serve -- immediately after every window and
door in the place is opened (to let out any left-over
bad luck) and a particularly "lucky" person walks
over the threshold to set tone of the luck for the
New Year -- with cornbread, honey, and wishes
for each person's New Year luck.


Jeter wrote:

In my family, no woman was allowed to enter our home on
New Year's Day until a strange man had crossed the threshhold
first. It was considered back luck to have a woman come, so
much so, that one year I was not allowed to come home until
the 2nd of January. I always thought my Dad didn't want
company on New Year's. I've since heard other variations but I
always thought it was an African American custom.


Shez, the "Old Craft" Lady wrote (and i have edited this slightly):

In my country [Great Britain], it's called first footing. Dead coals
are brought to the home on New Year's Eve by the first foot,
who in tradition is supposed to be a tall dark man. He is the first
to step through the door at midnight on New Year's Eve, to
bring luck to the house for the following year. The coal is kept by
the woman of the house through the year. and burned on the
fire the next New Year's Eve. The first foot gets a drink, a kiss,
and food -- not a bad return on a piece of coal.

My family's first foot was always the local policeman. He first
footed for most of our street, and by the time he got to ours, he
was pretty merry.

In different parts of the country different traditions arose on first
footing, but coal always came into it somewhere. as did salt, and
an awful lot of booze.

Scotland and the North East of England are the only places now
where you can see a traditional first foot ceromony. That's if
you're still sober enough to see.


And that ends (for now) the contributions from readers. Leaving
behind the subject of first footing and returning to BEANS for
the New Year -- i have learned that among the peasants and
rural people of Japan (Shintoists and Shinto-influenced
Buddhists), it is the custom for the family to go to the local
shrine on New Year's Day, where the priest throws uncooked
red beans (Phaseolus spp.) on all the congregation, like rice at a

My Japanese informant Miyako Graham, who was raised in a
farming community in Japan, acted the ceremony out for me.
Here's what she said, "People clap hands [claps hands twice,
sharply] and bow [bows from the waist, hands pressed together]
and then -- pow! pow! pow! -- the priest throws beans on them
[laughs and stomps from one foot to another]. It's supposed to be

There are other Japanese charms to ensure luck for the New
Year, such as the omomori amulet -- but that is a topic for
another Lucky W page to come...

If lucky beans are what you are interested in, see the red beans
index for pointers to the many illustrated pages on the lucky
qualities of numerous species of inedible, psychedelic, intoxicant,
and lethally toxic legumes:

If New Year's customs are your interest, the only other page
currently online on that topic is the illustrated chimney sweeps


catherine yronwode * *
* The Lucky W Amulet Archive: *
* The Sacred Landscape: *
* Karezza and Tantra: *
for discussions about folkloric magic, ask your ISP for news:alt.lucky.w

Carlos May

Dec 31, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/31/96

Cat Yronwode mentioned the lucky blackeyed peas for New Year.

Here in New Orleans my friends and I always have a get together on New
Years day with blackeyed peas, rice, and cabbage. They symbolize
something like luck, friends, and money I think.

* "The Information Super-Frog" [dibs] *

Leigh R Hidell

Dec 31, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/31/96

I've lived all over the South, & it's black eyed peas
all over, in the mountains, in deep South La. also.
Also "rice for riches & peas for peace" is another
saying, but these peas were still the black-eyed peas.
Cabbage was also supposed to bring money.


Dec 31, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/31/96

An upper-midwestern (I'm from Wisconsin) custom is to eat a piece of
herring at the stroke of midnight, for good luck in the new year.


Dec 31, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/31/96

I'm from western NC and we always had blackeyed peas, greens and
cornbread. All I remember about the symbolism is the obvious: greens
for wealth. Maybe I'll call home this evening and find out.



Jan 1, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/1/97

According to my Louisiana wife, it's greens for $, blackeyed
peas for health, cornbread for happiness. BUT to really get that
wealth, you need to take a piece of the greens (collard greens
recommended) and carry in your wallet for the following year!

Greg Nixon <>

"But thought's the slave of life, and life time's fool..."
(Shakespeare, Henry IV)

David ONeill

Jan 1, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/1/97
to (Carlos May) wrote:

Here on The Edge of America, it's "Hoppin' John" (rice and field peas)
with collard greens. Luck, and Prosperity will follow if this is the
first meal of the New Year. Actually this is a custom throughout the
lowcountry of South Carolina.
Top Troll
Techno-Troll Communications
Folly Beach SC

catherine yronwode

Jan 1, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/1/97

It's New year's Day as i write this. I have eaten my black eyed peas and
now -- through the wonder and glory of the internet -- i have received
New Year's greetings from a genuine Bavarian chimneysweep! For the
origin of the chimney sweep as the formal bringer of New Year's good
luck, see my web page

Here is what the sweep, Peter Aumeier, says (and sorry my U.S. English
keyborad has mangled his Deutche type characters), as well as i can
translate it (which is very badly, since i never studied German, just
heard my mother speak it at home and she is offline and without a
telephone today due to power outages in Mendocino, California, where she

> Hallo Catherine,
> I wish you a very good new year, all your wishes realisz in 1997,
> sorry for my bad english im a Bavarian ( Germany ) Chimneysweeper
> its 20 years ago i learnt english.
> Ich w竛sch die ein sehr gutes neues Jahr, m坓en alle deine Tr塽m und
> W竛sche 1997 wirklichkeit werden .

He says: "I wish you a very happy New Year; may all your dreams and
wishes for 1997 come true."

> Viel Gr羹e aus dem eisig verschneiten Berchtesgadener Land

He says (and here is where my childhood vocabulary fails me totally):
"Greetings from the icy (?), snow-covered Berchtesgadener (could be a
place-name???) land."

> Peter
> Address:
> Ps. Du hast eine der sch坣sten Kaminkehrer ( Chimneysweeper ) Seite im
> Netz kreiert. Danke!

He says: "P.S. You have created one of the prettiest Chimneysweep sites
on the net. Thanks."

Thank You, Peter! A New Year's e-mail from a chimney sweep is the best
kind of electronic good luck!

My mother was born in Bavaria.I have happy memories of the area around
Bad Tolz. We lived there for half a year -- i even went to school there
-- when i was a child, in 1958. My grandparents had lived in Munich but
their summer home was in Tolz, from 1910 until 1938, when they were
forced to leave Germany because they were Jewish. When the war was over,
they got their summer home back again (they still owned it), so they
lived in New York half the year and in Tolz the other half. It was
beautiful, along the Isar River -- and we went hiking in the mountains.
My grandmother died a long time ago and the house was sold, but i have
always wanted to go back and see it. I am sure it has changed a lot, my memory, it is still beautiful in Bavaria.

Greetings to you from California, the land where the citrus blooms!


Jennifer B. Jakiel

Jan 1, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/1/97
to wrote:
: I'm from western NC and we always had blackeyed peas, greens and

: Phil


Here in the Deep South of middle Georgia, I was taught that the beans
stood for pennies, the greens for dollars, and the cornbread for gold.


Carlos May

Jan 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/2/97

I, Carlos May ( wrote:

: Here in New Orleans my friends and I always have a get together on New

: Years day with blackeyed peas, rice, and cabbage. They symbolize
: something like luck, friends, and money I think.

Today while partaking in the above traditional feast, a friend told
me a different variation on the above. She said she'd always heard
that the cabbages stood for paper money, and the peas for small change.

-- F.


Jan 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/2/97

Carlos May wrote:
> Years day with blackeyed peas, rice, and cabbage. They symbolize
> something like luck, friends, and money I think.

I am stationed in the Norfolk, Virginia area and had never heard any of
these superstitions unitl i gor married. Pretty much the same of your
wrote except my sister-in-law said it was collard greens not cabbage to
represent money.

Holly Sullivan

Jan 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/2/97

> From: Georgia <>

> I am stationed in the Norfolk, Virginia area and had never heard any of
> these superstitions unitl i gor married. Pretty much the same of your
> wrote except my sister-in-law said it was collard greens not cabbage to
> represent money.

(smile) You might be IN the South but you must not be FROM the South.

Bright Blessings to you. Wish I was there.

-- Via DLG Pro v1.15

:)---Holly---<--<-@ * San Diego, CA * Warning: long line ahead! :)


Kevin Erskine

Jan 3, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/3/97

here in Richmond, they eat blackeyed peas and stewed tomatoes.
For Wealth and health I hear.

Kevin Erskine (The accidental southerner)
Senior Analyst
Internet & Electronic Commerce
Trigon Blue Cross Blue Shield
10128 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23060

(804) 762-5713

Personal Web page:

"Great wits are sure to madness near allied
"And thin partitions do their bounds divide..."

"And if you don't believe it, then I'll bet
"You've never tried to browse the Internet..."
-Dick Eney

Alaine Procko-oliveri (UND)

Jan 3, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/3/97
to Georgia

you're missing the pork...I'm a vegetarian and still learned to cook what
makes the reason for lore.

On Thu, 2 Jan 1997, Georgia wrote:

> Carlos May wrote:
> >
> >
> > Years day with blackeyed peas, rice, and cabbage. They symbolize
> > something like luck, friends, and money I think.
> >


Jan 4, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/4/97

In article <Pine.SUN.3.95.970103233034.21997A-100000@soleil>, "Alaine
Procko-oliveri (UND)" <> writes

A first foot at midnight, preferably tall dark and handsome.
He brings coal, bread and salt to bring the house prosperity.
he gets whisky, food and a silver coin.
and lots of kisses.
And the party spreads from house to house from street to street.
great fun. Thats the north of England custome, it differs by area.
The 'Old Craft' lady


Jan 5, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/5/97

In article <>,

Ah, no wonder my Raven was so anxious to be off to his first footing duties
that night!!! Whiskey and kisses, how could he resist??? He is indeed tall,
dark and handsome! :)

Well, my house will have it's own tall dark handsome man next year! :) I do
believe we'll keep this particular custom...



Jan 5, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/5/97

In article <5ang3p$kb4$>, loki <>

I must admit I am rather fond of it to.
I have had lots of first foots through the front door, and being mean
and nasty. part of my custome is every male in the house get thrown out
till midnight and the first foot crosses the threshold,
and every male included my son when he hit puberty, and the dog.
The dog got a lot of cuddles from the ladies to. He thinks first footing
is great.


Jan 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/8/97

I thought I'd be multi-cultural and share some of my family's traditions
from Cuba.

One tradition is to wash the walls and floors of your house (even if only
one or two sponge or brush strokes, it's the symbolism here) with soapy
water from a bucket, then throw the dirty bucket water out the door at the
stroke of midnight. I think this is an Afro-Carribean cleansing ritual.

Another is to eat 12 grapes after midnight to ensure good health for the
coming year.

A third one is to rub all the money in the house on your head, to insure


"God is a mountain, and each religion is a path to the Peak."-- from the Vedas, Hindu scripture.

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