(originally posted on New Year’s Day, 2011)

I grew up in the deep south – below I-10, east of the Mississippi River. During my childhood, I remember having to eat pork (usually ham), black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day. For luck. Collards symbolized money; pigs root forward (not backward, like, say, crawfish); and there’s something about how black-eyed peas sustained a group of starving soldiers during the Civil War. “It’s tradition,” we were told. For the record, we also had cornbread and syrup, but this wasn’t essential for good luck. Just delicious.

My wife is from NJ and is something of a traditionalist. Me, not so much. Which isn’t to say I don’t respect traditions. I do. Traditions are important for cultural storytelling (especially in religion). They’re just not really that important. But when my wife learned of these cool southern food traditions on New Year’s Day, she was hooked. And so for the past fifteen years or so, she’s insisted we consume a traditional southern good luck dinner on New Year’s Day.

Until today.

This morning she told me she wanted to break down Christmas and order Vietnamese for dinner instead of cooking. I hate to cook, so I was all for breaking tradition. Sometime in the early afternoon, however, she began to waver.

“What are you doing?” I asked, as she sat down at my desk.

“Looking up a new recipe for collard greens.” She responded, opening a browser.

“Why?” I asked.


“Oh no you don’t.” I said, sensing her apprehension after I’d already developed a serious Jones for Vietnamese. “Your idea this morning was brilliant. We’ve still got a lot to do today and can’t really afford to throw grocery shopping and dinner into the mix.”

“I’m going to the store and getting greens, Jim. I’m not going to be responsible for this family’s misfortunes for a whole year.” She responded.

And so it went on for about twenty minutes. Ultimately, the task of breaking down Christmas won out and tonight we enjoyed Vietnamese country soup, spring rolls and crispy quail for dinner. I feel good about our decision to break from tradition. I don’t fear the unknown. I know I’ve got zero control over it and I’m pretty sure that eating a certain type of food’s not going to matter much.

Or will it? Only time will tell. And if this does turn out to be a crap year, I’ll never hear the end of it. You can count on that (even though it was her idea).

*Note: On January 2nd, my wife made the January 1st meal. She was hopeful that the gods of luck (leprechauns?) would notice and credit our attempt at reconciliation. I’m so screwed.


DATE: January 15th. Since the day we (I) flipped off the New Year’s Day good luck meal traditions, the hard drive in my desktop failed (in for repairs now), my truck died while I was at the park (also in for repairs now), we’ve had nits (likely starting in late 2010 but they weren’t discovered until 2011), we missed three and a half days of work/school because of snow and ice (our yard still looks like a place where you think you could see Russia from the back porch), and today my wife’s company payroll had a direct deposit fail. And those are just the big things.


DATE: February 25th. Today I was busted at the a park I’ve been going to every day for 10 years by two CMPD Animal Control Officers who saw my dog chase a frisbee (thrown by me) in an empty park. My wife’s car is in the shop because someone hit her in her office parking garage. I got my truck back after replacing a very expensive fuel pump, but now it needs a new gear box. The puppy has completely destroyed the irrigation system in our yard. I pulled a groin racing my daugher and am now limping. My hosted blog crashed from a malware infection. And yesterday I had another computer emergency.


DATE: December 31st. I stopped logging our misfortunes after that last post in February. After that, it just became comical and we were desensitized to it. But it just kept coming. One thing after another. Some small. Some big. Thankfully, these misfortunes never directly affected our health. So for that I was (way) grateful. Also, finding a couple of four-leafed clovers in April seemed to slow the bad luck. But know this – for as long as we live, we will likely never not eat pork, greens and black-eyed peas on New Years Day again.

I’m still not all that superstitious, but after last year – I’m not risking it.

Happy 2012 everybody – Jim Mitchem

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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.