New Year's Traditions in the Upstate

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day traditions are as varied as the people in the Upstate and around the South. There are parties to ring in the New Year with glasses of bubbly and noisy party favors. Fireworks will be shot off at the stroke of midnight and some brave souls will bare all in Upstate polar bear plunges. Others will use New Year’s Day to start their resolution to become more fit by hitting area trails.

Each year, as the clock strikes midnight, some families will be cooking up a batch of greens (which are typically kale or collards) and black-eyed peas to eat, hoping good fortune will come in the New Year. According to legend, during the Civil War, after Union troops pillaged the land, they would only leave black-eyed peas and greens to be used for animal fodder. The two were rich in nutrients and Southerners learned to survive on these foods. Many believe the greens represent dollar bills and the peas represent coins to bring prosperity, wealth, and luck. Eat one pea for each day in the New Year and you’ll have good fortune for the whole year.

Transplanted northerners may prefer sauerkraut and pork eaten either at midnight or on New Year’s Day. This tradition, picked up from the Pennsylvania Dutch, is said to be because pigs represent forward progress as all of their hooves point forward. The long strands of the sauerkraut symbolize long life. It’s also said that since pork is rich on fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

A Spanish tradition honored by some in the Upstate involves eating 12 grapes at midnight to represent each month of the New Year. If someone gets a sour grape, that means that particular month might be a rocky month. All grapes must be swallowed before the last stroke of midnight for good luck.

For those looking to get a jump on their exercise-more resolution, Park rangers across the Upstate are leading “first day” hikes as part of a national movement on January 1st to help people start the New Year refreshed and rejuvenated.

More than 30 parks across South Carolina are participating, including a hike to the top of the mountain at Table Rock State Park. The ranger-led hike leaves at 9 a.m. and takes the 7.2 mile trail to the top of the mountain and back.

For something a little less strenuous, Keowee-Toxaway State Park has a 1.4 mile hike that will traverse the Natural Bridge Nature Trail and hot chocolate will be provided after the hike. Croft State Park in Spartanburg is also hosting a 1.5 mile nature trail hike. For more information on all first day hikes, visit the SC Parks website.

In a tradition picked up from our neighbors to the north—Canada, that is— Upstate residents can also jump into an icy lake or river by attending a polar bear plunge.

The Friends of Jocassee are hosting a Loon Lunge into the lake’s chilly waters at noon on January 1st at Devils Fork State Park. Cost is $20.00 and will take place after a 5k Ranger Run and guided trail hike. Over in Anderson, the annual Deer Dip will take place at Saddlers Creek State Park.

For more New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day events, check out the calendar page.

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer, editor and entrepreneur. Her articles have been featured in InfoWorld Magazine,, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, See the South, Beckett Media, The Simpsonville Sentinel and many other print and online publications. For clips and examples of her work, please visit her website at