If you are planning to celebrate the New Year in the Southeast, it is most likely that you will be offered black-eyed peas in some form, either just after midnight or on New Year's Day. From grand gala gourmet dinners to small casual gatherings with friends and family, these flavorful legumes are traditionally, according to Southern folklore, the first food to be eaten on New Year's Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead.
The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman's troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby giving the humble, but nourishing, black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.
Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved into a number of variations and embellishments of the luck and prosperity theme including:
- Served with greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, which varies regionally), the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens.
- Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold.
- For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, one must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.
- Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.
- In some areas, actual values are assigned with the black-eyed peas representing pennies or up to a dollar each and the greens representing anywhere from one to a thousand dollars.
- Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. When served, the person whose bowl contains the penny or dime receives the best luck for the New Year, unless of course, the recipient swallows the coin, which would be a rather unlucky way to start off the year.
The catch to all of these superstitious traditions is that the black-eyed peas are the essential element and eating only the greens without the peas, for example, will not do the trick.
This story is from: About.com