The Southern Black-eyed Pea New Year’s Tradition

It’s a Southern Tradition to eat Black-eyed Peas on New Year’s Day for Good Luck and Prosperity.  Black-eyed Peas symbolize wealth because they look like coins and Prosperity because they swell when cooked.  Peas are typically served with Collard Green, which represents money, and Cornbread, which represents gold.

While most every Southerner is able to tell you WHAT they eat on New Year’s Day, few know the history behind the tradition and WHY we eat these foods.

Many say, the tradition dates back to the Civil War.  In November 1864, General William T. Sherman and his troops marched from the captured City of Atlanta towards the Port of Savannah.  Known as Sherman’s March to the Sea, General Sherman ordered his troops to strip the land of all food, crops, and livestock and to destroy anything they could not carry away.  The troops followed orders and the surviving Southerners were left with nothing……….

EXCEPT, Black-eyed Peas.  The Black-eyed Pea supply was left completely intact.  The troops did not leave these Peas as some sort of good-will gesture.  They just didn’t know people ate Black-eyed Peas.

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 believe 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.

The rest is history!  After the Civil War, Black-eyed Peas were the only source of food in the South.  The Peas saved thousands of Southerners from salvation and gave the South a Second Chance.  From New Year’s Day forward, the tradition grew to eat Black-eyed Peas on New Year’s Day for Good Luck and Prosperity.

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