Column: Countdown to New Year’s traditional meals


Commentary by Mark LaFay

The New Year’s countdown is on! Practically speaking, it really is just another day, but there is something to be said for the symbolic act of turning the calendar to a new year.

My wife and I were married in December, and part of our annual tradition is to get out our anniversary book where we log our dreams and goals for the year. We write down our favorite things, and we write notes to each other. It is fun to look back at what we wrote the year prior and see what came to be.

When New Year’s Eve rolls around, we also like to celebrate the new year with a traditional meal of corned beef, cabbage and black-eyed peas.

There are several traditional dishes for celebrating the new year in our lovely nation. Here are some ideas for kicking off the New Yea. And, hey, if you believe in luck, maybe one of these dishes will bring you some of the good kind in the new year.

  • Black-eyed peas are small legumes, often prepared in dishes like Hoppin’ John. They are believed to bring prosperity and good luck for the coming year. With its blend of black-eyed peas, rice and flavorful spices, this dish is a symbol of hope and abundance, shared among families and friends across generations.
  • The king cake stands tall as a beloved New Year’s delicacy. Originating from the Mardi Gras traditions in Louisiana, this ring-shaped cake, with colorful icing, conceals a tiny trinket or figurine inside, symbolizing luck and fortune for the finder. Usually in January, I’m ditching the sweets, but I guess you could start after the king cake.
  • The classic Southern dish of collard greens and cornbread also is a traditional New Year’s meal. The collard greens, simmered to perfection with onions, garlic and a hint of spice, signify economic prosperity, and the golden, crumbly cornbread complements the greens well with warmth and simplicity.

Here is a good recipe for Hoppin’ John:


• 1 cup dried black-eyed peas

• 4 slices bacon, chopped

• 1 onion, diced

• 1 green bell pepper, diced

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 teaspoon dried thyme

• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

• 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

• 1 cup long-grain white rice

• Salt and pepper to taste


1. Rinse the black-eyed peas and set them aside.

2. In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and set it aside, leaving the bacon drippings in the pot.

3. Sauté the onion and bell pepper in the bacon drippings until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, thyme, and smoked paprika, stirring for another minute.

4. Add the black-eyed peas and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the peas are tender.

5. Stir in the rice and cooked bacon. Cover and simmer for an additional 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Serve hot and enjoy the flavors of tradition and good fortune!