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Eating Black-Eyed Peas on New Year's Day

John eating black-eyed peas
Photo: Anne Davis
In Georgia, it's a tradition to eat black-eyed peas and turnip greens on New Year's Day.

John Davis from Georgia, describes a traditional New Year's custom observed by many people in the southern part of the US.


TOPICS: Could you tell us about the custom of eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day?

John Davis: In Georgia, it's a tradition to eat black-eyed peas and turnip greens. The peas represent copper and the greens are dollars. We say each pea you eat equals one dollar's worth of earning, and each portion of turnip greens equals $1,000.

TOPICS: So, it brings you good luck, moneywise?

Black-eyed peas
Photo: Anne Davis
Some people say that it brings good luck and prosperity.

John Davis: Yes, some people say that it brings good luck and prosperity. This may be founded in truth because a 3-ounce portion of black-eyed peas and turnip greens is good for the digestive system. It helps clean out the digestive system.

TOPICS: Thank you, John. Will you be eating them again on this New Year's Day?

John Davis: I sure will. I always do! I cook them myself.

TOPICS: Thanks, John. We'll eat some, too.

Vera B Price
Photo: Vera
Vera says eating 365 peas might bring even more luck.

It would be better to eat 365!
John's mother-in-law and my mother, Vera Price, who has lived in Georgia and in other southern states, adds that some people say you have to eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. They say that that guarantees you will have good luck each day of the the following year.

A traditional New Year's Day meal throughout the South
This custom is traditional throughout the southern part of the United States. There are some variations; for example, in Texas and in Alabama, cabbage sometimes accompanies the black-eyed peas instead of turnip greens.

The black-eyed peas are considered a symbol of good luck; and the cabbage, like the turnip greens, is considered a symbol of money. The cabbage can be prepared in any form.It is sometimes cooked and sometimes served as cole slaw—a salad made with thinly cut, uncooked cabbage.  

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