If your New Year's Day table includes hog jowls, corn bread, collards and black-eyed peas, you're probably Southern. Some of my Northern friends have raised an eyebrow and asked, "What exactly is a hog jowl?" Once you explain that it kind of tastes like a mix between bacon and ham, they normally agree that it sounds tasty enough to be the first meal of the year.
Why do we do these things? You need to look at my New Year's traditions article for some detailed explanation. The short answer is that we eat cured pork because it's winter time. Hog jowl is a cured product which stores well for long periods. During the winter, cured pork would be one meat that would be accessible. Not many crops grow this time of the year, but black-eyed peas hold up well, are cheap and just make sense. Collards? They're a late fall crop too. Corn bread? Heck, you can't have collards and peas and not have corn bread. You might as well make it count for something too.
My article has three pages about the traditions of a Southern New Year's, so as you're celebrating, you can learn where these traditions came from. On the other hand, who cares where they came from? It just tastes good!