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Black-eyed peas and greens: a New Year's tradition

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POSTED: December 29, 2010 10:00 a.m.
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Megan, Colleen, Bob and Sheila Keller.

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Need some good luck and more money in the upcoming year? Try the Southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas and collard greens to usher in the new year. If you ask a hundred locals why they have this custom on New Year’s Day, you’ll get the same answer.
What many of us call a New Year’s tradition is actually superstition. Southern folklore teaches “a mess o’ greens” served with black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s Day promises a year of good luck and financial success. Kale, collards, turnips, spinach and mustard greens are all referred to as greens.
The tradition dates as far back as the Civil War, when Union soldiers raided the Confederates’ food supply one New Year’s Eve. They took all the stored food except the dried black-eyed peas and salted pork. On Jan. 1 that year, the only thing the Southern soldiers had to eat was the peas and pork to keep them alive. This became a sign of good luck.
Some add a shiny penny or dime to the pot of peas. When served, the person whose bowl had the coin would receive the best luck. The catch to this superstition is that eating the peas without the greens will not do the trick.
Having grown up with this tradition, I assumed it was a widely practiced and accepted custom. However, I now know that family folklore rules. Each generation may forget or alter the lore taught them. They will add new traditions. A tradition does not have to be old to be worth keeping.

For more, pick up a copy of the Dec. 29 edition of the News.

 

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