Southern New Year's Blackeye Peas
On New Year's Day, why do Southerners eat Black Eyed Peas?
The tradition of eating black-eyed peas as the first meal on New Year's Day is thought to have originated in the winter of 1864-1865 in the South. When Union General William T. Sherman led his invading forces through Georgia, the black-eyed pea crops were generally left intact since they were thought fit only for animals.
The Union foragers seized everything, looted the area, and burned or left what they couldn't take. However, two things remained: humble peas and good ol' Southern salty pork.
As a result, the basic yet nourishing black-eyed peas saved surviving Southerners from starvation, primarily women, children, the elderly, and disabled Confederate army veterans, and were afterwards viewed as a symbol of good luck. Peas are thought to represent good fortune. Those little supplies were certainly a blessing for the famished Southern families and soldiers.
The peas are traditionally given alongside many other meals that symbolize good fortune, health, money, and prosperity in the new year, according to tradition and folklore. Some people still cook black-eyed peas with a silver dime in the pot as a symbol of good fortune.
Greens are associated with affluence and paper money. Collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, and cabbage are the most popular greens in the South.
Cornbread, a common Southern staple in the absence of wheat, represents gold and is excellent for soaking up the juice from the greens on the plate. In any case, you should always have some cornbread on hand in your home. Good for dinner and breakfast with syrup.
Pork represents abundant fortune and then going into the coming year. Ham and hog jowls are traditional New Year's fare, though bacon is occasionally used as well. Pigs root forward, hence it represents moving forward in the New Year.
Tomatoes are frequently served with this dinner. They symbolize health and fortune.
So remember those stories the next time you sit down at your family table to eat this simple, uniquely Southern meal on New Year's Day. Be appreciative for what this year has given you despite the negative, and hope and pray for brighter days ahead for you. Every year, your Southern Kinfolk did this and reflected on it. We wanted to share these customs with our non-Southern friends.
New Year's Blackeye Peas recipe
- 1 lb. dry blackeye peas, rinsed and picked through
- 5 C. chicken broth
- 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with jalapenos, undrained
- 1/2 C. finely chopped onion
- 1 pkt. ham flavor concentrate
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the beans in the crock pot; no need to soak them.
- Add everything else to the crock pot, excluding the salt and pepper.
- Cover and cook on high for 3 1/2 - 4 hours.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Enjoy your New Year's Blackeye Peas!