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Why We Eat Black Eyed Peas On New Year’s Day

Updated: May 31, 2022

If you haven’t been eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day, it could explain why you’ve had bad luck. At least, that’s what my mom would say. In the south, we have a traditional New Year’s supper including black eyed peas, collard greens, pork, and cornbread. Southerners generally agree that this is the exact formula to bring good luck and fortune in the new year, but most of us are unsure of how the tradition got started.

So in this post, we’ll discuss the origin of the black eyed peas New Year’s tradition, plus I have a few suggestions in case you need some recipe inspirations.

seasoned black eyed peas for new years in a white bowl on a white background

Black eyed peas are a must for your New Year’s Day supper.

Black Eyed Peas On New Year’s

Digging into the history of this custom, I found some interesting information as to why we eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day. During the Civil War, some areas of the south were pillaged and food crops destroyed by the Union army. However, they left the black eyed peas as they were considered animal food, not suitable for human consumption. When food was scarce, finding a crop of nutritious and filling black eyed peas felt lucky, and as such, the peas became associated with good luck.

What makes them so special on Jan 1st?

Some say it symbolizes the hope that many felt on New Year’s Day in 1863. That’s the day President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all the slaves in the US.

And in many cultures, New Year’s Day is considered a day of new beginnings. It’s a day to ponder your future and all the amazing things you will do in the year ahead. While you’re dreaming big, it doesn’t hurt to eat a big fat bowl of good luck, right?

Traditional New Year’s Day meal

The traditional southern New Year’s meal is a comfort food combo of black eyed peas, collard greens cooked with pork, and cornbread. The peas are said to represent coins and the greens are the paper money. Eating them together will bring you luck and fortune in the new year. Sop it all up with a golden nugget of cornbread, and you can look forward to extra spending money in the coming year.

Besides making beans and greens taste amazing, eating pig for the new year is said to be good luck. We choose pigs because they root forward and can’t turn their heads to look backward.

On the other hand, serving chicken, which scratches backward, and cow, which eats standing still, are considered bad luck.

Homemade Southern Hoppin John (black eyed peas with Rice and Pork)

Black eyed peas are a must for your New Year’s Day supper.

Black eyed peas recipes for New Year’s

In some families, it’s traditional to slow cook the black eyed peas. But in others, they’re mixed with rice or tomatoes. Here are a few southern style black eyed peas recipes to try.

Southern New Year’s Day food

In the south, we typically cook greens with some part of a pig. A hock, jowl, or even back fat can be used to amp up the flavor in the collards. If you’ve never cooked collards, start here then try this classic southern recipe. For cornbread, try this spiffy Jiffy recipe and consider adding in a few whole kernels of corn for extra luck this year. The pork on your New Year’s plate can be served in many ways. Whichever is your favorite, here are a few recipes for pork.

Southern Style Collard Greens with Salt Pork

Pair collard greens with black eyed peas and cornbread for good fortune in the new year.

Do you eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day?

Growing up in Georgia my mom always made sure we ate some black eyed peas on New Year’s Day. She said it was good luck, and I was always compelled to fill my belly with the peas. The tradition has been so ingrained into my brain that I have continued to make a traditional southern New Year’s dinner all through college and into my mommy years. Even now my mom always calls on January 1st to make sure we eat some black eyed peas. What about you? Share your family’s new year’s traditions below!

why we eat black eyed peas on new years pin
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