A little late for Christmas this year, but on time for the New Year; I wanted to post some Southern Holiday food traditions and their origins. This time of the year holds so much meaning and much of what we do are traditions passed on from generation to generation. Some of these traditions have origins from the War for Southern Independence and before, but over time the true meaning has been lost for some. Where did the foods we eat come from? Despite liberal PC Southern holiday foods are not all about soul food, but stem from many European traditions and humble Southern beginnings.
Black-eyed peas and greens:
These modest foods have monumental meaning for a Southerner for the New Year. The tradition of eating black-eyed peas and greens on the New Year is believed to date back to the War for Southern Independence. Because the land and the people were devastated by Sherman’s troops who ignored black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder it became a sustaining staple. These enabled Confederates to survive and are now eaten to represent thanksgiving and a prosperous future. Southern folklore is that black-eyed peas are one of the first foods eaten on New Year’s Day in recipes like Hoppin’ John.
It is said that the French created the pecan pie, or New Orleans pecan pie. After settling in New Orleans the native Indians familiarized them with the pecan, which they then mixed with syrup into a pie and is now often related to the holiday season.
Originating from a pagan tradition of burning a log at the winter solstice to signify the return of the sun this tradition was embraced by Christians who decorated the log before burning it. Napoleon issued a decree that Paris homes must keep their chimneys closed in the winter and bakers created the buche de Noel, or the Yule log. The tradtion was brought over by French settlers and continued in America. Americans put their own spin on it when faced fireplace free homes in the 1970’s because of the introduction of the heat pump and would tune their televisions to a TV network who played a looped video of a burning fireplace on Christmas Eve. This was where we got the Yule log DVD of today.
What Southern holiday food traditions do you have in your home and where did they come from? Share with our Southern community your stories and favorite recipes.