Friday, December 27, 2013

Ringing In The New Year...With Greens and Black-eyed Peas !


According to tradition, this New Year’s Day tradition, southern style, dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops pillaged the land, leaving behind only black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder.
In the North, Black-eyed Peas were known as “cowpeas” or “field peas”. Cattle ate cowpeas and humans ate only English Peas. Since the North believed that only cattle ate Black-eyed Peas and they had already either taken or eaten all of the cattle, they saw no need to destroy this crop.

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 making the black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.
As one of the few food sources left to sustain the people and the southern soldiers, those black-eyed peas came to represent good fortune.
Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has many variations and embellishments. Served with greens, the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens.

Other traditions include:

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.

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.

Greens and black-eyed peas remain favorites in the southern diet, as reflected in the poem " Soul Food Restaurant" from my book
Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia -a Life In Poems.
(Reflections Mississippi Magnolia - A Life in Poems -|
 Amazon link to purchase)

Also, some form of pork is to be included. (pork roast, ham hocks, hog jowls ect. )

Many, simply, just add fat back in the greens.
The pork represents health and wealth, and continued prosperity.
If a family had a hog, that hog (usually killed, dressed and stored between Thanksgiving and Christmas) could provide meat for a family for much of the entire upcoming year.
Some say that the pork also represents progress since pigs/hogs, generally, are not able to look backward without completely turning around.


  1. Great post! I learned some things I didn't know!

  2. I never knew the story behind that! Wow!

  3. Oh,That's where that came from!!

  4. Thanks for sharing Patricia, luv it and of course sharing with my networks :)

  5. I love your poetry Patricia. I knew all the facts above but appreciate the reminders. So many folks don't know why, they just do it. I don't care for greens so mama would always have something else, like coleslaw for me. My favorite thing to eat is still a piece of cornbread, sliced in half, piled high with black eyed peas and a lot of juice, sliced tomato straight from the garden, and fried okra. In the winter I would, and still do, drain a jar of canned tomatoes and eat them. Now I'm hungry! Thank you for your love of MS, my home too.

  6. This article was extremely informative concerning the tradition behind black eyed peas on New Years Day...

  7. Great post, Patricia! I knew that black-eyed peas were said to bring good luck, but I never knew the story behind it.

    Many years ago while working a summer job between teaching semesters, I had the opportunity to engage in a Southern traditions conversation with a young man who had just moved to the Mid-South from California. He was perplexed that everyone's 4th of July plans seemed to include eating watermelon. A smart-aleck co-worker attempted to convince him that it was the law in the South to eat watermelon on the 4th of July and that we had watermelon police to enforce the law. The "foreigner" was still processing that when the conversation turned to eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, another Southern "law." He questioned the practicality of enforcement, asking, "So who's going to come to your house and make sure you're eating black-eyed peas on New Year's?!?"

    To which my smart-aleck friend replied, "What do you think the watermelon police do the rest of the year?"