Where does the tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Years day come from?

Ever since I can remember, Mom makes black eyed peas on New Year's day. She always said it was good luck but I never understood why. I've heard from others that black eyed peas represent coins and prosperity. My parent's are not superstitious so it didn't make any "cents" to me. I'm not even sure my mom really knows why they do it except her mom and grandmother always did it and it's tradition. I even do it since I've left home. Why? It's what we've always done.

This past month as I was thinking about black eyed peas recipes, I wanted to know more of the actual reason why. Why is it a tradition? After much searching, here's what I've found that actually makes sense.

Black eyed peas have always been a symbol of good luck which Wikipedia says as early as 500 bc in Jewish tradition. But as far as New Year's is concerned, it's a tradition that began in the South. On New Year's Eve in 1862, many African Americans waited up all night to wait for Pres. Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.

Some renegade confederates probably in command from General Sherman targeted and raided some slaves and took all their food except black eyed peas because they had black on them & because possibly they thought black eyed peas were only for animal feed. Whatever the reason, the African Americans rejoiced because they had food; they had been spared & felt they had good luck. Although having a church party on New Year's Eve didn't originate with the African American community, it's become very important to so many because of the history on Dec 31, 1862 & Jan 1, 1863. This is why many African American churches have a "Watch Night" on New Year's Eve and celebrate with black eyed peas, of course, among other favorite Southern soul food.

Now I have an explanation as to probably why we do it which is nice but I'm going to continue doing it because it's a family tradition and I like eating black eyed peas.


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