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Bandera Courier
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2016-01-07

Blessings on you

Carolyn B. Edwards

How many of you ate black-eyed peas on New Year's Day? Yes, I imagine many of you joined me in that long-held tradition. I'm not sure where the idea began that the flesh colored peas with the dark eye conveyed luck to the eater for the coming year. Maybe the black-eyed pea farmers started it all in order to sell larger quantities of their crop.
I ate my peas this year in the form of a dish called Texas Caviar, a mixture of peas, hominy, tomatoes, onion, garlic and bell pepper marinated in Italian dressing. It's eaten with corn chips or cornbread.
But black-eyed peas are not the only traditional foods believed to convey good luck and blessings throughout the new year.
In the Black Hills I understand that oyster stew is the preferred dish. The Black Hills being somewhat distant from fresh seafood, one wonders why buffalo stew was not chosen instead.
In some regions, pinto beans are the bean of choice and others enjoy a bowl of lentils.
Green leafy vegetables are also believed by some cultures to bless the eater. That includes cabbage, kale and collards. These are all veggies that produce at their best in the colder weather of late fall and early winter. In earlier times, eating them provided a boost of vitamins and minerals much needed during the colder days. That still holds true today, so eating a mess of greens will surely bless the eater with good health.
Some cultures prefer fruit for that special New Year's Day blessing. Pomegranates and figs are blessing foods for some. One tradition requires the eating of exactly one dozen grapes, presumably providing blessings for each month of the year to come.
People from Northern European ethnic groups swear by pickled herring to cement their annual good luck. You can eat it right out of the tub, cut it into tiny pieces and top a Triscuit with it, or turn it into a salad with potatoes and apples.
In some parts of the world, the New Year is celebrated by eating baked goods with a lucky coin hidden inside. The finder of the coin gets a broken tooth and all the good luck for the year to come.
Eating round cakes and cookies, symbolizing the continuity of time, is also a custom for many.
Many Asian cultures enjoy dishes with extra long noodles to represent longevity. They also eat meals that include a whole fish.
I hope that you and your family have developed traditions to unite you in your celebrations of the New Year. Gather together, remember the year just past, recall loved ones, tell family stories. And look forward to whatever 2016 has in store.
Happy New Year!