What is Hoppin' John?
Throughout the coastal South, eating Hoppin' John on New Year's Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck. The peas are symbolic of coins, and a coin is sometimes added to the pot or left under the dinner bowls. Collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, kale etc. along with this dish are supposed to also add to the wealth since they are the color of money. On the day after New Year's Day, leftover "Hoppin' John" is called "Skippin' Jenny," and further demonstrates one's frugality, bringing a hope for an even better chance of prosperity in the New Year. During the late Middle Ages, there was a tradition of eating beans on New Year's Day for good luck in parts of France and Spain. The European tradition mixed with an African food item to become a New World tradition.
One tradition common in the Southern USA is that each person at the meal should leave three peas on their plate to assure that the New Year will be filled with Luck, Fortune and Romance.