Another explanation dates back to Civil War times, when black eyed peas were traditionally used for livestock feeding rather than for feeding people. When the Union troops raided and stole other crops from Confederates, they left behind the black eyed peas. People discovered they were quite nourishing, and felt lucky to have some food left for the winter.
It could relate to slavery as well. Black eyed peas were sometimes some of the only foods given to slaves to eat. On New Years in 1863, celebration for the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation was done by eating the only food around – black eyed peas.
Still others claim that the tradition simply relates to the south being a great place for farming – so black eyed peas are eating each winter to celebrate this crop which holds up well and is cheap.
Black eyed peas are served a few different ways on New Years, depending on location and family tradition:
- With collard, turnip, or mustard greens, or cabbage, in which the greens are said to represent money and the black eyed peas are said to represent coins.
- Served with a side of cornbread, to represent a brick of gold.
- Black eyed peas with stewed tomatoes are said to represent health and wealth
- Served with pork, the black eyed peas represent prosperity because they swell when cooked while the pork represents positive happenings for the next year (since pigs move forward when foraging)
- Some say for the best chance at luck, you must eat exactly 365 black eyed peas at New Years.
- Some people cook black eyed peas and toss in a new penny or dime. If you get it in your dish, you’ll have luck the next year. Disclaimer: I don’t recommend this, especially with kids – what if they swallow it?! But just sharing traditions.
Happy (early) New Year! (And if you still haven't signed up for our 2012 Challenge, do so here! It's going to be great!)
(Historical data from Amanda Galiano & Sheridan Alexander)