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Unusual and Obscure New Year's Food Traditions in Texas

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Ham and pork in general are lucky foods on January 1st, but unusual foods are also celebrated on this holiday.

Ham and pork in general are lucky foods on January 1st, but unusual foods are also celebrated on this holiday.

The World Celebrates Many New Year's Traditions

New Year's Day arrives on different dates around the world, according to the culture in which it is celebrated. For instance, Chinese New Year occurs sometime within January or February each year, depending on the lunar calendar. Jewish New Year is in September. The Spiritual New Year for the Iroquois Confederacy of Native American Nations and First Nations, including Mohawks and five others, occurs in late January or early February, also following the cycles of our moon.

We can see that many cultures celebrate moon or lunar festivals on a yearly or even monthly basis, particularly Asian and Native North, Central, and South American cultures. In addition, the New Year's of India is celebrated in yet different ways on different dates throughout the subcontinent.

Whatever the date of your particular New Year, it is usually a time of new beginnings and celebrating new things. Foods comprise one such category.

Whatever the date of your particular New Year, it is usually a time of new beginnings—and, some say, of good luck.

Delicious cabbage.

Delicious cabbage.

The Luckiest Foods of Texas

Pork and cabbage are "lucky food" traditions for Americans that have adopted them for good eating on January first each year. Many of these traditions came from the Old World and traveled to and across America as our nation was settled by other people from nations across the sea, with and without the aid of Native North Americans.

Corned beef and cabbage is an Irish tradition, while luck is associated with the German, Dutch, and other European dishes that include sauerkraut. The English seem to enjoy both cabbage and sauerkraut on the holiday.

Cabbage does not need to be cooked in a pot to be enjoyed by Texans on New Year's! Word on the street and at Texas A&M University Extension is that 60% to 70% of Texas cabbage becomes coleslaw, eaten for good luck.

Black-eyed peas are a Southern tradition for the holiday, including in Texas. What some may not know is that Texas is the third-largest producer of cabbage in the USA. California is the first, and New York is the second.

Texas is the third-largest producer of cabbage in the USA.

New York and Texas?

Some of us wonder about how cabbage grows in these two states. Many have grown up thinking cabbage grew mostly in the Midwest. We were incorrect!

Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center has the facts: 320 million to 350 million pounds of cabbage are produced every year in Texas.

To sum up the Good Luck Foods for a good old Texas New Year's Day big-time celebration:

  • Black-eyed peas and other legumes (like peanuts)
  • Cabbage (especially as coleslaw)
  • Collard greens
  • Ham
  • Rice

That's a lot of food!

In 1937, an East Texas business promoter put the first national marketing campaign behind what until then had been an African and southern U.S. legend. In only five years, sales (of black-eyed peas) doubled.

— Bud Kenedy, Star-Telegram Newspaper; December 31, 2017.


Lucky New Year's Salad

A resident of Texas for over 70 years gave me this recipe:

Peanuts and Peas

Somewhere in Texas is a hotel dining room or restaurant that serves this simple dish that people love. A friend gave me a portion that she had made, and the first time I tried it, I loved it.


  • 1 pound unsalted peanuts
  • 1 16-oz bag frozen peas, thawed
  • Mayonnaise to moisten


  1. Just mix the ingredients in a bowl and serve. You can substitute Miracle Whip or vegan salad dressing for the mayo.

Texans Enjoy International Traditions on January First

I have become acquainted with many Texans and found that they enjoy trying international foods for the January holiday. Some celebrate with delicious meals that I also enjoy for Native American New Year commemorations. Other Texans employ celebration foods from certain other regions of the United States and the Old World.

Traditional recipes of the American South provide:

  • Hoppin John, a pork sausage and black-eyed peas favorite
  • Caramel corn
  • Slo-cook farm apples

New Year's in the Far East and Middle East celebrates:

  • A lucky chicken soup
  • Noodle soups
  • Green curry chicken

Traditions in the United Kingdom include special foods like:

  • Scotland's Hogmanay's black bun
  • Scottish-Irish-English persimmon cookies

Immigrants from all over the world have landed in Texas and brought their favorite holiday dishes with them, and Texans like them as well.

Honey is a symbolic New Year's food as well.

Honey is a symbolic New Year's food as well.

Jewish New Year

The Jewish New Year is one of the High Holidays celebrated in September. for example, the year spanning September 2009 to September 2010, Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) was the year 5770.

Symbolic Foods For the New Year

  • Honey
  • New Fruit: A fruit that has not yet been eaten in the autumn season. This is sometimes a pomegranate, because of its mention in the Old Testament.
  • Round Bread, a Challah: A circle emphasizes perfection in the new year.

Additional Symbolic Foods

  • Apples and honey to emphasize a sweet year to come
  • Baked carrots in honey
  • Fish
  • Lamb's head
  • Rice
  • Spinach

Do you know any famous Jewish Texans? Clue: Star Trek's Brent Spiner (Data the Android) is one of them.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. The Hebrew name Yom Teruah, meaning "day of shouting and blasting (the shofar)".

A Lucky Pillow Case?

A Lucky Pillow Case?

Good Foods and Pillow Cases on New Year's Day

Many of my ancestors from the UK immigrated across America to Texas, Colorado, and California in the 1800s. They brought the January tradition of the new pillowcase with them, along with their notions about lucky foods.

The tradition of sewing new pillowcases at the beginning of the year has become obscure since AD1950, but I have discovered from readers all sorts of experiences and meanings associated with this practice. New Year's lucky foods have been accompanied by new pillow cases for centuries!

Happy New Year to you, whenever and wherever you celebrate it!


  • New Year's Tradition - How we started eating black-eyed peas for luck. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  • Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Retrieved November 20, 2009; January 22, 2018.
  • The Tradition of the New Pillowcase. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  • USDA/NASS 2016 State Agriculture Overview for Texas. Retrieved January 23, 2018.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS