5 Ways To Celebrate Black Tradition Through New Year’s Customs


January 1, 2024

It’s time to get your house in order for the new year!

While awaiting the clock striking midnight on New Year’s Eve, people around the world partake in various traditions and customs to welcome the coming year. Among these diverse practices are several unique traditions within the Black community that have been passed down through generations. These customs not only reflect cultural heritage but also hold deep symbolic meanings. Here are five notable traditions that Black Americans hold for their celebration of the new year.

Celebrating the Last Day of Kwanzaa

Photo: Christopher Myers

Kwanzaa, a cultural celebration observed by many Black Americans, spans from December 26 to January 1. On the seventh and final day, known as Imani (Swahili for faith), families come together to reflect on their achievements and reaffirm their commitment to the community and cultural values. The last day of Kwanzaa overlaps with New Year’s Day, creating a seamless transition between the two celebrations.

Eating Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens


One of the most widely recognized New Year’s traditions in the Black community is the consumption of black-eyed peas. This practice is deeply rooted in African-American culture and has its origins in the American South. The tradition is believed to bring prosperity and good luck for the coming year. The peas are often prepared in dishes like Hoppin’ John, a flavorful combination of black-eyed peas, rice, and pork, symbolizing wealth, luck, and progress.

“I don’t let a New Year’s Day go by without having some form of greens, pork, and black-eyed peas,” said Dr. Jessica Harris, the author of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey From Africa to America, in a 2021 New York Times article.

Deep Cleaning Living Spaces

Another widespread practice in the African-American community involves turning on the music and thoroughly cleaning the house as the year comes to an end. The idea is to enter the New Year with a fresh, clean slate, both literally and figuratively. Ensuring that no dirty laundry is left in the home symbolizes leaving behind any negative energy or unresolved issues from the past year. South Florida newlywed and BOTWC reader, Jay Barrett, has carried this tradition from his family home to the new one he has with his wife, Jasmine. “[Growing up], we deep clean the entire house. That’s something that I applied to my house as well.”

Crossing the Threshold with Money


In many African-American households, there is a belief that the first man to enter the home in the new year should have money in his pocket. This tradition is rooted in the desire for financial prosperity and stability. The act of ensuring the first person through the door is economically equipped is seen as a way to attract wealth and abundance into the household. This tradition was depicted in an episode of Everybody Hates Chris, as the title character receives a $20 bill before leaving home on New Year’s Eve.

Watch Night Service

Photo: Lampos Aritonang

The Watch Night Service is a significant tradition in many Black communities, especially within the African-American church tradition. Originating during the time of slavery, this tradition involves staying awake on New Year’s Eve to pray, reflect, and give thanks for the blessings of the past year while seeking guidance and protection for the year ahead.

Rev. Dr. Sylvia Long shares with BOTWC, “Since I was a child, I have attended what is known as Watch Night Service on New Year’s Eve. As an adult, I continue that tradition as a meaningful milestone to my years. Ending one year and beginning a new year in praise — with a heart of gratitude and worship toward Jesus Christ — is, to me, the most gratifying.”

Cover Photo: Black Eyed Peas are a long-standing New Year’s Eve tradition./ Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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