Southern New Year's tradition of black-eyed peas.

Southern Tradition: Black Eyed Peas Recipe for New Year’s Day

Why do Southerners eat Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day?

The tradition of eating black-eyed peas as the first meal on New Year’s Day is considered to have started in the South during the winter of 1864-1865. When Union General William T. Sherman marched his invading soldiers through Georgia, the black-eyed pea crops were mostly left alone since they were deemed to be fit only for animals.

Foragers from the Union took everything, looted the region, and destroyed or left what they couldn’t take. Two things, however, remained: lowly peas and good ol’ Southern salty pork.

As a result, the simple yet nourishing black-eyed peas saved starving Southerners, particularly women, children, the elderly, and disabled Confederate army veterans, and were later regarded as a symbol of good luck. Peas are supposed to represent luck. Those meager supplies were a godsend for the starving Southern families and soldiers.

According to tradition and mythology, the peas are traditionally served alongside many other meals that represent good fortune, health, money, and prosperity in the new year. As a symbol of good fortune, some individuals still cook black-eyed peas with a silver dime in the pot.

Green is associated with wealth and paper money. The most popular greens in the South include collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, and cabbage.

In the lack of wheat, cornbread represents gold and is wonderful for soaking up the liquid from the greens on the plate. In any event, you should always keep some cornbread on hand. With syrup, it’s great for dinner and brunch.

Pork indicates good fortune and prosperity in the next year. Traditional New Year’s dinner includes ham and hog jowls, however bacon is occasionally included as well. Pigs root forward, hence it indicates progress in the New Year.

This meal is typically served with tomatoes. They represent good health and fortune.

Remember those anecdotes the next time you sit down at your family table on New Year’s Day to eat this modest, quintessentially Southern meal. Be grateful for everything this year has brought you, despite the negatives, and hope for better days ahead. Your Southern Kinfolk did this and reflected on it every year. We wanted to share our Southern traditions with our non-Southern acquaintances.

Blackeye Peas Recipe for the New Year Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry blackeye peas, washed and selected
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 14.5 oz. undrained diced tomatoes with jalapenos
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 pound of ham flavor concentrate
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions:

  1. No need to soak the beans before putting them in the crock cooker.
  2. Except for the salt and pepper, combine everything else in the crock pot.
  3. Cook on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, covered.
  4. Before serving, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy your Blackeye Peas for the New Year!

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