Holidays in Appalachia

Sharing New Year’s Traditions By Way Of Blind Pig Readers

New Years traditions from Appalachia

We’re not big on New Year’s traditions here at the Blind Pig house, but over the years I’ve researched common New Year’s traditions from the area and written about them. If I had to point to one tradition I have followed fairly consistently it would be my annual blog post about my favorite posts from the previous year. I hope to share that post one day next week.

As I looked back through the archive section of Blind Pig and the Acorn I found several interesting traditions that readers have shared.

  • Sheila: My friend said her mother used to sweep the kitchen floor on New Year’s Day, scoop up about a teaspoon of the ‘dirt’, tie it up in a small piece of cloth, then put it away in a kitchen drawer. She said it would ensure that you would have money all year. We wonder if anyone else has heard of this New Year’s Day tradition? We’re from Southeast Tennessee.
  • Pamela Danner: Happy New Year to you all! We always have black-eyed peas, greens cornbread, meat, and I can remember my Mom saying something about blackberries (we have cobbler).
  • Dee: As far back as I can remember, we ate black eyed peas, greens, with fatback and of course, cornbread on New Year’s day. I plan on doing the same tomorrow. Plus, I love black eyed peas and greens. My husband’s father, of Irish and English ethnicity, grew up in Chicago and they always fired their shotguns up into the air at midnight. It seems like I remember “Watch Services” mentioned way back in my grandmother’s day but it is a faint memory.
  • Emily: In East Texas we burned onion skins in the fireplace and eat black-eyed peas for good luck. Even today (Austin, TX) in some neighborhoods rifles are fired into the air at midnight. From Mexican friends I learned of the custom (originated in Spain) of eating twelve grapes at midnight for good luck in each of the coming twelve months. That custom seems to be taking hold in Texas.
  • TimMc: Growing up, the meal of Black-eyed peas, Hog jawl, greens and cornbread was a every year tradition, Mama seen to it.. And it was suppose to make you healthy, wealthy and wise.. Well, I got one of the three, (healthy) and still waitin on the other two, and I hope it’s soon because I’m running out of time..
  • Bob: In my younger years, an old flame, she was a country gal, used to say, “What ever you are doing at Midnight on New Years Eve, is what you’ll be doing ALL Year!”. Here in southeast TN and north GA, we do the greens, and black eyed peas, so we can have some folding money, and some change.
  • Jim Casada: Some other New Year’s-connected traditions include:
    (1) Anvil jumping (using gunpowder to “shoot” an anvil skyward
    (2) Firing blackpowder guns into the air
    (3) Turning the Yule log, which was supposed to last until the celebration of Old Christmas
    Happy New Year’s.
  • Janet Smart: We have the tradition here in West Virginia of eating cabbage on New Years Day. The stores always have an abundance of it and usually put it on sale. Mom would put silver (such as a silver dime) in the bowl of cabbage. The person who scooped out the dime with their cabbage would be prosperous in the coming new year, Grandma always made sure the first one to set foot in her house on New Years was a male. And, I always attended Watch Services at church when I was growing up.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about the various New Year’s traditions and I hope you’ll leave a comment and share any others you might know.

Last night’s video: Traditional New Year’s Meal in Appalachia | Black Eyed Peas, Mustard Greens, Pork, Cornbread.


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  • Reply
    January 4, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    As a child growing up, we had jogs meat of some sort with biscuits and taters and what else momma fixed. Now my own family, we don’t do nothing like that.. We usually in church bringing in the new year.

  • Reply
    January 1, 2022 at 8:59 pm

    We also have stewed tomatoes with our blackeyed peas.

  • Reply
    Nancy Boswell
    January 1, 2022 at 11:50 am

    We didn’t have many New Year’s Eve traditions when I grew up except to stay up past midnight. I don’t remember if I did well at that or not. When we got married we would usually gather with friends at church or someone’s house to enjoy each other’s company. Now we stay home 🙂 Not even a drink usually. Maybe some Sleepytime tea. Ha. When we lived in CA we had some friends who came from Tenn. and we were at their house on New Years day. The lady of the house made black eyed peas and cornbread. She said it was for good luck all year.

  • Reply
    January 1, 2022 at 12:27 am

    Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    December 31, 2021 at 11:26 pm

    My Appalachian Mama taught us early to eat those blackeye peas and collards and I sure do like them now that I’m grown. I’ve been cooking up tonight along with frying the hog jowl and it smells so good that I can hardly wait for the meal tomorrow. We know Who gives us the good things in life, good health, prosperity and provisions, happy times and wisdom when we ask for it. All good things come from above. Happy New Year!!!

  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    December 31, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    Whatever you do on New Years you will do all year! That one I remember hearing many times. We also had the traditional peas and greens. Today I cook greens, peas, mashed potatoes and fried deer meat. I always make cornbread and sliced tomatoes too. It is my favorite.
    Happy New Year everyone!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    When growing up backbone ribs, turnip greens, crackling cornbread and a baked sweet potato was a meal we had for supper 2-3 times a week in the fall and winter months. Turnip greens would be cooked and then froze so we could have them all winter. Everything but the cornmeal was either raised or grown by us. I don’t know for sure, but a meat market in Honea Path, SC may have backbone ribs. I know they have hog heads, hocks, tails etc.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    My memories of growing up after the war and into the ’50s include pork, usually a picnic ham, collards, black-eyed peas, cornbread and sweet potatoes. I’ve renewed the tradition over the last 20 years except, more often than not, I cook pork tenderloins as I will do again tomorrow. My collards are mixed with turnip greens, although there has been no frost to make the bitter up and give all their flavor and will be cooked with a ham bone for flavor. Trimmings from the ham bone will go into the black-eyed peas to flavor them. Recently, I’ve started cooking my peas in chicken broth. It really gives them a rich flavor.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR! to the Pressleys, Wilsons and all my friends here at BP&A.

    • Reply
      December 31, 2021 at 5:18 pm

      I always heard that the weather for the first 12 days of January would predict weather for the following months . . . not the degree of heat or cold just whether or not it is above or below normal. If that’s true, our January and February are due to be colder than usual as we are expecting overnight lows below 25° tonight and tomorrow night.

      What do the wooly worms look like this year? We don’t have them here in central TX.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    Jim Casada’s post sure brings back what I never hear anymore. My Mom would sometimes cook what she called “backbones and ribs.” I have never heard this special Appalachian meal referred to by anybody else until now. Surely the tradition and the dish will fall by the wayside easily when there is nobody left to remember their mother cooking this. I actually did not care for it, as it seemed too rich. I always loved the biscuits or fried “batter bread” with butter that always accompanied it. I have lived different areas and so prefer to pick my favorites of kraut or cooked cabbage and black-eyed peas.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    My Mother was a keeper of the sweeping (but not bagging the dirt), the black-eyed peas, fat-back, greens and cornbread (not my favorite) and the decorations HAD to come down, all for good luck in the New Year. We often went to the watch-night service (Tennessee and even Florida long ago), which I also thought was to WATCH for the Lord’s return. Great memories.

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    December 31, 2021 at 1:34 pm

    Happy New Year Tipper! We will be having the same thing we always have, what is listed in my past post in your list.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 31, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    Finding what I consider the key New Year’s foodstuff, backbones and ribs, at least in this part of the world, is an exercise in the impossible. I’ve asked so-called butchers at four different area grocery stores if they could special cut me some and three of the four didn’t even know what I was talking about. The fourth, an older gentleman, did but added that belonged to the past.

    Accordingly, I’ll have venison from a deer I nurtured through maintenance of my land, killed, personally skinned and gutted, processed, and will cook. It will be tasty and has never known any infusion of water to add weight, consumed growth hormones or antibiotics, or done anything except range free. With it will be clay peas I grew, cornbread, and turnip greens. There’s little in the food line I don’t enjoy but I have no use for collards. Mountain folks know that mustard or turnip greens, or biled cabbage. is just the treat.

    Happy 2022 to one and all.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    I could almost taste your meal in the video! My New Year’s tradition has not changed, I still fix greens, black-eyed peas, pork and cornbread. My Mother always said it was for good health and prosperity. It wasn’t until many years later when I was researching just how healthy greens and black-eyed peas were that I realized all the vegetables they grew and ate were really chocked full of vitamins. I had a dear friend of German & Irish descent and she always cooked Pork, Sauerkraut and Mashed Potatoes for New Year’s Day. It was good too.
    You can still hear the sound of shotguns at midnight New Year’s eve, here in SC PA.
    We attend Candle Light Service on Christmas Eve and now I know what they were referring to with the Watch Services bringing in the New Year.
    Happy New Year to the Blind Pig and Acorn family!!!!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    December 31, 2021 at 11:50 am

    I hope you all have a great 2022!

  • Reply
    Herbert H Santee
    December 31, 2021 at 11:32 am

    We are Pa. Dutch and we always prepare pork and suarkraut for New Years dinner. It is supposed to give a good year coming.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    December 31, 2021 at 11:29 am

    Love to read all the different traditions. Growing up we would have greens, black eye peas, boiled potatoes & pork. After I married we continued this tradition. Our boys didn’t particularly like this meal, but they would eat one spoonful of greens and peas. What is so wonderful they are keeping the tradition going on with their families. As an adult we did attend Watch night Service at our church. Happy New Year to you Tipper, and your family. Take care and God bless ❤️

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 11:21 am

    My wife’ family would blow the car horns at midnight instead of shooting a gun. Like Ed said the traditional meal in my area was and still is collard greens, black eye peas, some type of pork and cornbread. I never cared much for collards but love turnip greens. Someone else mentioned cabbage and I also love them. Happy New Year to everyone.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 11:12 am

    I grew up in WV and on New Year’s Eve as a child we stayed up to blew our horns or bang pots with spoons to make noise at midnight for the New Year. My mom never said why, but later in life I had read it was to run off evil spirits. Us kids just thought it was fun. My mom always made sure we had some type of money in our pockets before midnight, to ensure we would never be broke in the new year. She also told us whatever we did on New Year Eve at midnight, like cleaning, cooking, washing, arguing, misbehaving or whatever, we would do twice as much in the New Year. So she made sure we had the cleaning, cooking and washing all done before midnight on New Year’s Eve and no arguing or misbehaving was allowed at all. My mom for New Years Day dinner would always fix black eyed peas, cornbread and cooked cabbage with a silver coin in it like a quarter or silver half dollar. Whoever found it in their serving would grow up prosperous.
    When I was an older teenager to a young adult the church I attended at that time would have a Watch Night Service where our Pastor would read scriptures, we would all sing hymns, and pray the New Year in. The service only lasted from 11:30 to after midnight and sometimes a little longer. If the weather was bad with snowstorms we were told to stay home and right before midnight we all needed to read from the Bible, sing a hymn of praise and pray as the clock struck midnight. This was our way of starting out our New Year with God our Father and our church family. It was always a blessing!
    Since moving to the Carolina I have never found a church that does Watch Night services. When my daughter was little we would just stay up watching whatever fun event was on TV and at midnight we prayed. As she grew older we sometimes celebrated with close friends. My son-in law’s family ever year always went to Shoney’s to eat as a family for New Years. My granddaughter was born unexpectedly right after midnight on New Years and was the first baby born in our county in 2010. The tradition of eating at Shoney’s then became not just to celebrate the New Year, but also her birthday. After Shoney’s closed we have all just stayed home celebrating in our own way. Our granddaughter now has friends over to her house to stay over to celebrate. My hubby and I FaceTime her to wish her a Happy New Year and Happy Birthday. My hubby and I now days stay at home and thank God for the all the blessing of getting us through the year and thanking Him for the allowing us to see another new year. To God be the glory for all our precious memories we all are able to remember.
    Happy New Year to you all!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 11:04 am

    I just love hearing the Appalachia traditions! My Mommy usually fixed pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s. It might be that Scott-Irish tradition along with German tradition. I also heard her talk about the black-eyes peas but we had pinto beans more than the peas. Daddy loves pinto beans! I think I’m going to put pintos in to soak today and cook them tomorrow.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    December 31, 2021 at 10:12 am

    In our Va. Coalfields, boys did shoot guns on the New year’s day, plus my oldest ugly brother would throw cherry bombs at people’s feet ( one of the reasons he’s an ugly brother ) . Best I can remember we tried to eat some black eye peas for luck. Mommy always swept the house on the first day of the new year. I have piles of books and stuff everywhere in my efforts to downsize so I guess I will just try to clean the dust off the top of the piles!
    Matt T….where was your father from? My late friend Kathryn Windham of Selma used to say you should hollar rabbit on the first day of every month for good luck! I try that because I sure can use all the good luck I can get. To all my kindred spirits here on the BPA, HAPPY NEW YEAR .

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 9:35 am

    Here in Pa the traditional meal for New Years is a German tradition of pork, sauerkraut and potatoes… Happy New Year and God Bless!

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    December 31, 2021 at 9:35 am

    Hi, Tipper. We’re still eating cabbage! We bought 2 large heads yesterday at the store. Charley (he’s my cabbage cooker) always cooks a huge pot of it, and it’s delicious. Of course, I’ll bake some cornbread to go with it. Here is a link to my blog where I told how we make it. Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2021 at 9:05 am

    I don’t remember the New Year meal as much as I do the tradition of getting up early and being very careful what we did all day. My parents believed that what you did on New Years day would be what you would be doing all year. Our meal included cabbage, fresh greens, cornbread and pork. Those things were common in our everyday supper so it’s no wonder the New Year meal didn’t leave me with food memories.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 31, 2021 at 8:59 am

    Our family had only the church community tradition of the watch service. This was in Baptist churches, though it differed by some churches observing and some not. Services were not markedly different than other times except that they lasted until some time after midbight. In some churches prayer would begin before midnight and continue through until after, thus ending the old year in prayer and beginning the new one in prayer. Behind it all was the idea of ‘readiness’.

    We never had any particular foods or a family tradition of any particular activity for new year’s eve or new year-s day. I think some families had a tradition of the menfolks going rabbit hunting that day.

  • Reply
    Matt Thompson
    December 31, 2021 at 8:22 am

    My great grandfather taught to say “rabbit rabbit rabbit” on new years day before you said anything else. No idea why, but I keep the tradition alive.

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    December 31, 2021 at 7:55 am

    We’re from west central Alabama and for many many years after we were married we spent New Years Eve in church. We would sing and preach the old year out and the new year in. We always had food to enjoy, sometimes a full New Year’s meal of black-eyed peas,collards,fried taters and corn bread .Other times just finger foods and always sweets. We enjoyed these times together.We’re older now, both in our seventies, eyesight not to good at night so we stay home now but we have these sweet memories of New Years Past. Have a Blessed and Healthy New Year ❤

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 31, 2021 at 7:55 am

    We plan to have ribs cut locally with a little backbone to go with it, mustard greens out of the garden which have held on amazingly well this fall and early winter, cornbread, black eyed peas, corn from the freezer, and an apple pie. No staying up to welcome in the new year, and no resolutions other than to thoroughly enjoy the peace and quiet now that the blankety-blank Great Smoky Mountain Railroad will shut down until spring and the tourists go back to wherever they come from.

  • Reply
    GoodGriefLouise ( Bill )
    December 31, 2021 at 7:54 am

    We always do Hoppin John as our black-eyed peas along with spinach, ham and cornbread. I sprinkle Trappey’s Pepper sauce on my spinach. And it’s not gross as I heard someone say in your kitchen the other day on your video. 🙂 We are also going to have potato salad with our meal. I found this link about how the tradition of this New Year’s Day meal began. It might very well be true. Happy New Year Tipper and to all The Pressley’s and extended families.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    December 31, 2021 at 7:41 am

    Happy New Year everybody! No matter what your customs, may 2022 be a year of change toward the better!!! My adopted son headed off to NYC for New Year’s. I wish him a safe trip to and from. The rotten apple is no place for me…

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 31, 2021 at 7:05 am

    Isn’t collards the traditional greens eaten on New Years Day? The place I worked for 37 years sold massive quantities of them every year in December. I think collards, cornbread, hog jowl and black-eyed peas are the original meal.
    If you want put a dime in your greens make sure it’s dated 1965 or before. They are made of 90% silver. Modern dimes have no silver at all.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 31, 2021 at 6:55 am

    My family always had Black-eyed Peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day. I never thought to ask where it came from. I think, but I’m not sure, that the greens represented money in the coming year and the peas represented health for the coming year.

  • Reply
    donna sue
    December 31, 2021 at 6:42 am

    I do not have any New Year’s Day traditions that I have done every year. Growing up the only tradition we had was us 5 kids going to my grandparent’s for the day. January 1st is my parent’s wedding anniversary, so they would go away for the day. I wish everyone a safe New Years Eve, and a Happy And Blessed New Year! And I wish Paul Wilson a happy birthday!

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    Debbie Seaton
    December 31, 2021 at 6:36 am

    Momma always fried cabbage and she made kraut and weenies. She loved this time of year with family. This is our first without Momma and it’s been hard, but she is with the Lord and we have peace. Happy New Year! Thank you for sharing the ways!

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