One thing about growing up in the south, and specifically in the Lowcountry of Georgia and South Carolina, a couple of things we do not fall short of are traditions and superstitions. Heck, we start the year off with our dos and don’ts of the New Year. One of the absolute and non-negotiable “dos” of the New Year is that one MUST consume a hearty plate of Hoppin’ John. This brings me to the title of my blog.
NOW HEAR THIS: Hoppin’ John is made with field peas (sometimes referred to as cowpeas), NOT black –eyed peas. Honestly, I did not know that people consumed black eyed peas for “luck” in the New Year until I moved to Florida. I moved to Florida in the summer of 1999. As the year 2000 approached, I began to gather my “luck in the New Year” goods. I searched every nook and cranny of every chain and corner store in search of red field peas to make a nice pot of Hoppin’ John. Not one field pea could be found. I even went to the Caribbean grocery stores and was offered a selection of pigeon peas–though the pigeon pea may be a cousin of the field pea, a field pea it is not. Lesson learned!! So now I either stock up when I visit home, or have my mom ship me an emergency Hoppin John Kit!
In addition to preparing and consuming Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day, there are a few other rules to prepare for the New Year:
- You must consume some collard greens if you want those “green backs” (i.e. money) in the New Year. I am not sure if that works, but it is good for your digestion
- Clean your house! In the words of my grandmother, “The way the New Year finds your home is the way it will be all year.” I always fail at this one as I never got my home in order and I lived in chaos. This year, my home is “better” but I am fearful that I will not have a spotless home in 2016. I think this is impossible with a 7 year old son…but I digress.
- Don’t wash clothes. This tradition/superstition freaks me out. The saying is that if you wash clothes on New Year’s Day, you will wash someone out of the family. In other words, you will be responsible for the untimely death of Aunt Mae, who happens to be 102. I’m not overly superstitious, but I don’t take chances with this one.
Now, I have a friend (she’s from west Georgia, bless her heart), introduced me to a tradition about a man has to be the first to cross your threshold in the New Year. When she was single, she would go as far as to wake her neighbor’s grown behind son up to walk through her door at midnight. Hmmm….I think if a man walks across my threshold at midnight, he’s looking to bring more than luck (or a plate of Hoppin’ John)—I’m just saying. My Peruvian BFF shared the tradition of eating 12 grapes in the New Year for luck–one grape for each month. Not sure about this one, but I like grapes, so I’ll have a bowl.
But honestly, we are born with the blessings that God has in store for us. John 1.0: 9-10 (KJV) states:
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
To share John 10:9-10 from the Gullah Bible:
“A de gyate, Ebrybody wa go shru me fa go eenside, dey gwine be sabe. Dey gwine be free fa go een an come out fa go find green grass fa nyam. De tief jes come fa tief, fa kill an story. Bot A come so dat dey kin hab true life, so dat dey kin lib a life ob joy wa heap op an ron oba.” (The New Testament in Gullah, Sea Island Creole, 1st ed. 2005, American Bible Society)
God has a life of abundance and joy for us. It is up to us to be open to receive what God has for us and use God as our guide to get us there. In the New Year, indulge in your traditions and celebrations, but rely on God to bring you the blessings you desire in 2016.