New Year's traditions include peas, parades and parties

By Clay Wilson

From eating black eyed peas and watching football to simply recovering from New Year's Eve parties, Clayton and Henry County residents will observe the first day of 2004 with time-honored traditions.

"We just do what everybody else does: Eat our turnip greens and black-eyed peas," said McDonough resident Will White.

The reason everybody else eats black-eyed peas, according to Better Homes and Gardens, is that beans have been associated with good luck since Roman times. But in the southern U.S., black-eyed peas – which made their way from Africa on slave ships – became the bean of choice.

Of course, White noted, he and his wife, Linda, only partake in this particular tradition if the Georgia Bulldogs aren't playing in a bowl game.

"To the extent we have (a New Year's tradition), we go to where the Georgia Bulldogs are playing," he said.

So, as White pointed out, he and Linda – both UGA graduates – haven't had black-eyed peas in several years. Nor will they this year, as they are in Orlando for the Capital One Bowl, which begins at 1 p.m. today.

Back in Stockbridge, Butch and Ginger Foshee will be resting from the New Year's Eve bash they have thrown for the last four years at their restaurant, Arctic Circle Bar and Grill.

"Recuperating," said Butch Foshee when asked how he and Ginger spend Jan. 1. "We don't even open New Year's Day."

Foshee said that Arctic Circle staffers who work New Year's Eve don't leave until 5 or 6 a.m. That's because they're cleaning up from the previous night's festivities, which include a live band, a balloon drop and an expected 300 revelers.

At Tijuana Bar and Grill in Jonesboro, sometimes the New Year's Eve party continues on New Year's Day.

"We celebrate like they do over here," said employee David Duron when quizzed about Mexican New Year's celebrations. "(We) eat and drink and have fun. It's not too much different."

Especially on New Year's Day, he said, people from Mexico like to "just be we the family. Sometimes we keep partying," he added.

But according to Trina Pyron at Big J's Rib and Soul Food Restaurant in Riverdale, some locals like to continue the party all week.

"Last year – whenever we opened back up (after closing for New Year's Day), they were coming in the whole week and buying black-eyed peas and greens," Pyron said.

A lot of customers would take the delicacies home, she said.

And while Big J's is a soul food restaurant, Pyron said she thinks the traditional New Year's meal is "moving away from a race thing – I think the word got around."

At her own home, she said, "We do the black-eyed peas and collard greens."

Asked the reason for the custom, she replied, "I think it's just maybe an old myth. I think it's an old family tradition – from one generation to the next."