Thank you to WhatsCookingAmerican.net: The History of Hoppin John:
Hoppin’ John is found in most states of the South, but it is mainly associated with the Carolinas. Gullah or Low Country cuisine reflects the cooking of the Carolinas, especially the Sea islands (a cluster of islands stretching along the coats of south Carolina and northern Georgia). Black-eyed peas, also called cow peas, are thought to have been introduced to America by African slaves who worked the rice plantations. Hoppin’ John is a rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausages, ham hocks, or fat pork, and rice.
There are many variations to traditional Hoppin’ John. Some cook the black-eyed peas and rice in one pot, while others insist on simmering them separately. Some also like to add the collard greens in the pot. The favorite way to eat a Hoppin’ John meal is with collard greens and corn bread. Each item on the plate has symbolic meaning for the New Year. Black-eyed Peas represent “coins,” collard greens represent money or “green backs”, corn bread represents “gold,” and if tomatoes are added to Hoppin’ John it symbolizes “health”.
The first written recipe for Hoppin John appeared in The Carolina Housewife in 1847. Most food historians generally agree that Hoppin John is an American dish with African/French/Caribbean roots. There are many tales or legends that explain how Hoppin’ John got its name:
It was the custom for children to gather in the dining room as the dish was brought forth and hop around the table before sitting down to eat.
A man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife took the dish from the stove.
An obscure South Carolina custom was inviting a guest to eat by saying, “Hop in, John”
The dish goes back at least as far as 1841, when, according to tradition, it was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled black man who was know as Hoppin’ John.
Southern Stories about Hoppin’ John:
This African-American dish is traditionally a high point of New Year’s Day, when a shiny dime is often buried among the black-eyed peas before serving.
Whoever gets the coin in his or her portion is assured good luck throughout the year. For maximum good luck in the new year, the first thing that should be eaten on New year’s Day is Hoppin’ John. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, many southern families toast each other with Champagne and a bowl of Hoppin’ John. If it is served with collard greens you might, or might not, get rich during the coming year.
If you eat leftover Hoppin’ John the day after New Year’s Day, then the name changes to Skippin’ Jenny since one is demonstrating their determination of frugality. Eating a bowl of Skippin’ Jenny is believed to even better your chances for a prosperous New Year! – Source: Beyond Black-Eyed Pease: New Year’s good-luck foods, by Mick Bann, Dec. 26,2008, Austin Chonicle.