Personally, I despise black-eyed peas. I love traditions. I love honoring the seasons and the change to the New Year. But I hate, loathe, detest, and abhor black-eyed peas. To me, they taste like dirt, not good fortune.
All my life I've heard: "Eat 365 black-eyed peas to ensure good luck all year long." No thank you. I could get by on the tradition of eating just one pea. That makes sure you share the wealth with everyone else in the upcoming year. (I'm nothing if not a giver.) Still, once I learned the historical background of the tradition, I must admit I have been a bit more inclined to open up and chow down this year.
Some sources say that the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day originated in the South during the Civil War. Apparently, the peas were first grown as a field crop for animals, then for slaves. When Union soldiers marched through and torched everything, it seems that the fields of black-eyed peas were all that were left. They were humble enough to escape even
's troops. The Confederates that were left gathered around and ate, grateful to have black-eyed peas, much less anything at all. Sherman
Some people have their peas with cornbread, to symbolize gold. Some people have their peas with cooked greens (again, no thank you) to represent coins and paper money. Some people have their peas with stewed tomatoes to ensure good wealth and health in the upcoming year.
Honestly, my family has never participated. This year, however, I might think about my ancestors, hungry and finding themselves in hard times. A war was going on and they were going without. They found themselves thankful for some field peas that had originally been meant for their animals and they decided that the humble pea was a symbol of good fortune for the next year. Things could surely not get much worse, could they?
I could use a symbol of hope and prosperity about now. I could enjoy some good luck in the next year. I'll be raising children and working on big projects and really, I could use all the help I can get. So, pass the peas please. Even just one.