Black Eyed Peas, New Years, and Luck

For dinner on New Years Day I decided to go the traditional Southern route and eat black eyed peas and collard greens for luck. Talking with my mother on the phone she convinced me that I should. It took some hunting, but I was able to find frozen collard greens at Whole Foods as well as some canned, organic black eyed peas from Italy. I’m typically not a big fan of black eyed peas, but I made a really delicious version this year, so thought I’d share.

I cooked the peas, drained them, and then added in freshly chopped onion, tomato, jalapeƱo (seeds and all), and cilantro. I threw that back in the pot to heat it up a bit more. Then cooked the greens and liberally salted and peppered them. It was actually quite tasty, the peas were essentially a variant of a rice-free hoppin’ john. Turned out great and I would make them again on days other than New Years, something I haven’t really thought before when eating them.

I know that black eyed peas and greens is a pretty wide spread Southern tradition for good luck on New Years Day. Even saw a couple of Facebook posts about it. So I was a bit curious where this tradition comes from, and why it’s Southern in nature. A bit of searching and you can pretty quickly come across a number of different explanations. References during the Civil War, but also those that date back to the Jewish New Year back in 500 AD and how that might have then come to Georgia in the 1700s and thus led to those later Southern occurrences. However I mostly see articles that talk about this without providing references, and the wikipedia article seems a bit lacking, so I wouldn’t take it at 100% as there could be some circular-referencing logic happening. But it’s an interesting thought. I also always thought of them collectively as being a meal to bring luck, but it appears that it’s often thought the peas bring luck and the greens bring money.

Whatever it is, I like the tradition and it’s a good excuse to eat some collards, so I’ll plan to keep sticking with it.