Black-eyed peas ("Texas caviar") are popularly served on New Year’s Day in Texas and throughout the South. Served with rice, the dish is called “Hoppin’ John.” According to legend, a sea captain from North Carolina made a New Year’s day stop at the home of a sea captain from South Carolina, who only had peas and rice but encouraged his guest to “Hop in, John!”
Hoppin’ John is not fancy food for a New Year’s feast, but a Southern saying is: “Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year.”
Various Southern sayings are associated with eating certain foods on New Year’s:
. rice for riches
. peas for pennies
. peas for peace
. collards for dollars
. greens for greenbacks
. cornbread for gold
. sweet potatoes for gold
. fish for silver
. hog jowls for joy
What’s Cooking America—Hoppin’ John
Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year.
Rice for riches and peas for peace.
- Southern saying on eating a dish of Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day.
2 January 1938, San Antonio (TX) Light, American Weekly, pg. 19, col. 6:
There is a tradition that “Hopping John,” a mixture of cow peas, rice and hambone, when served during the New Year season, always brings good luck to the home and to the guests who enjoy it.
31 December 1939, San Antonio (TX) Light, “Try a ‘Lucky’ Hopping John to Start the New Year,” American Weekly, pg. 14, cols. 2-3:
“it is an old Southern custom to serve it on New Year’s Day at the noon dinner, 10c being added to the big bowl of peas just before it is brought to the table. The person finding the dime in his plate will have ‘good luck’ all year. The recipe is called ‘Hopping John.’ From where the name came, I do not know, but it is very popular in the South.”
31 December 1940, Robesonian (Lumberton, NC), “Season for ‘Hoppin’ John,’” pg. 6, col. 2:
We are getting near that season of the year when coastal residents of North and South Carolina being to think of having “Hoppin John” for dinner.
One New Year’s Day, so the story goes, a North Carolina coastal man whose first name was John was visiting a sea captain in South Carolina. Come dinner time and a savory looking dish was set before them.
“I don’t know what it is,” said the host, “but hop in John.” John hopped in, and along the Cost hog jowl and peas, the traditional New Year Day dinner, has been “Hoppin John” ever since. (State Port Pilot.)
6 January 1941, Galveston (TX) Daily News, “So John Hops In,” pg. 5, col. 2:
Wilmington, N. C.—AP—This being the season for “Hoppin John” the story is again being told of how the dish of hog jowl, peas and rice received its name. It seems that a sea captain in South Carolina had a fellow captain—named John—from North arolina as a dinner guest. When hog jowl, peas and rice were set before the Tar Heel, his host remarked, “I don’t know what it is but hop in, John.” It has been “Hoppin John” ever since.
30 December 1949, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. B1, col. 1:
Don’t forget the old southern custom of serving hopping John to the whole family on New Year’s day.
In case anyone doesn’t know, hopping John is made of black-eyed peas cooked with bacon, to which cooked rice is added, All who eat the dish on Jan. 1 are assured of good luck, especially prosperity, during the new year.
21 December 1950, Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle, “‘Hopping John’ On New Years Day Is Old Custom,” pg. 7?, col. 3:
It’s good luck and a Happy New Year for those who observe the old custom of eating Hopping John on the first day of the year! For Hopping John has long been known through the southland for the magic powers to bring health, happiness and even wealth!
2 January 1964, Florence (SC) Morning News, pg. 6A, col. 2:
For your information, this business about black-eyed peas and greens on New Years is supposed to bring luck. The peas bring pennies; the greens, greenbacks.
And “the luck is in the Lord, the conduct in the man.”
That’s what “they” say and have been saying for in these many years.
28 December 1966, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 29, col. 1:
For a good number of years now we’ve been counseling everyone to eat Hopping John on New Year’s, and while the initiated doubtless will fell we are being repetitious, we must think of those who may not yet be acquainted with the custom.
Hopping John isn’t anything fancy, of course. You simply cook black-eyed peas with bacon, then mix the peas with a little steamed rice on your plate.
Some hold that you needn’t add the rice. But we disagree.
In our book, it takes both black-eyed peas and rice to make real Hopping John. Otherwise, you have plain black-eyed peas.
Now, again to the old superstition that partaking of Hopping John on New Year’s brings good luck during the ensuing months, especially in money matters.
You may be wondering if we really believe this is true.
Perhaps not really. But we would have an uneasy feeling, let us say, if we didn’t eat some Hopping John every Jan. 1.
At the same time, if we are to be realistic, we must confess we’ve consumed lots of black-eyed peas from new year to new year and we haven’t gotten rich yet.
18 December 1974, Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram, “Hopping john is old Southern New Year’s good luck custom,” pg. F18, col. 2:
One of the few food traditions for New Year’s Day is Hopping John. This mixture of black-eyed peas, rice, and hog jowl is supposed to bring good luck.
26 December 1990, The Daily News (Huntingdon, PA), “Ring in the New Year, Southern-style,” pg. 12, col. 1:
Some say Hoppin’ John originated with the slaves who had offered up beans to African gods to gain their good will. Others believe it was named for a peddler who had a limp and hawked his wares of dried peas and beans in the streets of Charleston, S.C. According to Gene Hovis’ “Uptown Down Home Cookbook,” the author’s North Carolina granny used to insist on black-eyed peas for New Year’s, saying: “Peas for the silver, a dab of pumpkin for the gold and a helping of collard greens for the greenbacks.”
29 December 1996, Aiken (SC) Standard, “Just for luck” by Nina J. Nidiffer, pg. 1C, col. 2:
Doug Silas doesn’t have any doubt about what he’ll be having for New Year’s dinner.
“It’s collard greens or turnip greens for dollars and black-eyed peas for change,” the owner of the Chick-N-Snac in Graniteville said.
Rice is supposed to grant fertility in the New Year, but most of all, it just goes good with the thick, slightly salty gravy from the black-eyed peas.
Sweet potatoes are supposed to guarantee fertility as well. They are good roasted, mixed into a souffle, or turned into a pie.
Lastly, the golden kernels of corn that were ground to make the meal for the cornbread are supposed to represent golden coins.
Between greens for greenbacks, peas for pennies and corn for gold, it’s bound to be a rich New Year’s dinner, one way or the other.
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From: Leigh R Hidell
Subject: Re: New Year’s Luck Customs
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.
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From: (Fred Burke)
Subject: Re: New Year’s Luck Customs
Jennifer B. Jakiel () wrote:
: : 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.
: 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.
No greens in Austin, Texas, but yummy jalapeno cornbread and blackeyed peas were served up for happy hour on Jan. 1 at my favourite gay bar.
by Jerrilyn McGregory
Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi
On New Year’s Day people ate a traditional dinner of pork, blackeyed peas, and greens as elsewhere throughout the South. One local Wiregrass resident explained that there were “Peas for peace, jowls for joy, and collards for dollars.” Surber claimed that the meal “was supposed to bring prosperity during the coming year to those who ate it.”
Austin (TX) Chronicle (January 4,, 1999)
The traditional African-American dish for New Year’s Day was Hoppin’ John, a blend of black-eyed peas, pork, and rice. (Some experts attribute the name to the custom of inviting guests over—“Hop in, John”—or an old ritual in which the children of the house hopped once around the table for luck before eating the dish). In large areas of the South, Hoppin’ John is still the de rigeuer dish of choice. But in most areas, black-eyed peas in any form are acceptable.
Black-eyed peas won’t bring wealth in the new year by themselves, however; it’s the combination of foods that brings the big bucks. The basic rule seems to be: “Peas for Pennies, Greens for Dollars, and Cornbread for Gold.” My mom told me that when she was a child in East Texas, you were supposed to place a heads-up penny under your bowl of black-eyed peas to turbo-charge the luck of the peas. The greens can be of any persuasion—cabbage, collards, mustard, beet, kale—as long as they’re green to represent paper money (and in Georgia, it’s important to drink some of the potliker as well). The cornbread connection to the color of gold is obvious, and there’s no better way to sop up the juices of the previous two dishes than a steaming slab of hot, buttered pone. In years past, I’ve always made my cornbread with white cornmeal, but since comparing that color to white gold or platinum might be a stretch, I’ll be using yellow cornmeal on January 1 from now on.
So this year on New Year’s Day, you can guaran-damn-tee that I’ll be seated squarely behind a veritable groaning board of black-eyed peas (with a penny underneath), greens and cabbage (with a chug of potliker), and bright, golden cornbread. I’m leaving nothing to chance. The windows, lights, coal, first stepper, fireworks will all be in order. I will eat to a point just short of explosion, sit back, and wait for the luck and bucks to come rolling on in.
-- Mick Vann
Weight Loss Community
12-29-1999, 02:55 PM
Pulling up this thread for New Year’s.
I learned over on the Bootcamp Buddies that you should eat black-eyed peas for luck, sweet potatoes for gold, and collard greens for money.
Now, who has a good low points sweet potatoes recipe?
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From: “Sue in GA”
Subject: Re: OT: Pork and sauerkraut
We do black-eyed peas with hog jowl (only time of the year I even buy that) for luck, greens for greenbacks (this year it was turnip greens cooked with rutabaga—for the gold, you know), and in recent years we have had pork neck bones cooked with rice. I keep hoping the rice will bring me a new Toyota. So far, the driveway remains conspiciously full of a 9 year old truck and a 7 year old car. The year’s young yet, though.
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From: Florian de Beaucastel
Date: Mon, 01 Jan 2001 15:51:54 -0600
Local: Mon, Jan 1 2001 4:51 pm
Subject: Re: OT: New Years Customs
I was praising the qualities of Hoppin’ John at a New Year’s Eve party last night, and explaining what it was to my non-Southern acquaintances. I usually eat it with turnip greens. That way you have black-eyed peas for pennies and greens for dollars in the new year.
Southern Living - Message Boards
12-21-2005, 06:25 PM
New Year’s Meal
My parents’ neighbor said she ate collards to have plenty of paper money, fish for silver money, and peas for pennies. Y’all know of any weird stuff like that?
Southern Living - Message Boards
12-27-2006, 03:53 AM
We will eat our main meal that night and naturally black eyed peas cooked with a ham hock, turnip greens and cornbread. Peas for pennies and greens for dollars, cornbread for gold and the ham hock to look forward (a hog can’t look backwards). Grandmother always placed a penny under the bowl of blackeyed peas and I still do.
Good Luck Foods for 2007
As far as the South is concerned, there are two sayings for the traditions:
“Peas for Pennies, Greens for Dollars, and Cornbread for Gold.”
“Eat poor on New Year’s, eat fat the rest of the year.”
rworange Dec 04, 2006 12:08PM
Traditional New Years Foods?
I am from the south and our traditional fare on New Years day is this....Hog Jowl for Joy, Black eyed peas for Peace, Rice for Riches, Greens for Greenbacks (money), Cornbread for Gold, and we make a Russian tea (brew a strong tea with a cinammon stick, several cloves, sweeten with plenty of sugar then add as much pink grapefruit juice as the tea [so it is half and half] and let simmer for a bit) the tea is for good health. The tea also makes the entire house smell good and there is a meaning there like cleansing the old air with the new one but do not quote me on that. I just moved to England so I am curious as to what is tradition here. Oh also on the stroke of midnight with every bong you stuff a grape in your mouth (and dont choke) .....each grape represents good luck for and entire month. I think it is a Mexican tradition we picked up from somewhere. (we are not)
EternalsBliss Dec 31, 2006 11:32AM
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Tuesday, January 15, 2008 • Permalink