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I don't know how you celebrate the New Year in your family, and for many cultures today is not New Year's day since world-wide there are many variations.

But in my family, who still hold on to traditions of the American south, it would not be New Year's without black-eyed peas and ham.  

Here's an interesting bit of Southern lore about black-eyed peas and what they represent:

The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman's troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby giving the humble, but nourishing, black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.

Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved into a number of variations and embellishments of the luck and prosperity theme including:

   * Served with greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, which varies regionally), the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens.

   * Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold.

   * For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, one must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.

   * Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.

   * In some areas, actual values are assigned with the black-eyed peas representing pennies or up to a dollar each and the greens representing anywhere from one to a thousand dollars.

   * Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. When served, the person whose bowl contains the penny or dime receives the best luck for the New Year, unless of course, the recipient swallows the coin, which would be a rather unlucky way to start off the year.

The catch to all of these superstitious traditions is that the black-eyed peas are the essential element and eating only the greens without the peas, for example, will not do the trick.

In my husband's Puerto Rican tradition we threw a bucket of water out into the street, and eggs out of the window. We  are preparing to celebrate Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings) on January 6th.

My European American grandmother believed a tall dark haired man had to be the first person to enter the house on the New Year, to bring good luck.  I'm lucky I guess; the hubby is a tall dark-haired man and has already come in the door from feeding the goats this morning :)

For many of you Black-eyed Peas are not food but a musical group, headed by Will.i.am:

After Eazy-E died of AIDS in 1995, the group changed their name to Black Eyed Peas; Will.i.am explained on the front cover of the Monkey Business album that "Black Eyed Peas are food for the soul", hence the name.

In honor of the New Year, black-eyed peas and hopes for change, here's some music:

We Are The Ones Song by will.i.am - Obama



It's a New Day

Happy New Year/Prospero Año Nuevo to all.

What New Year's traditions are practiced in your family?

(cross posted at The Motley Moose)

Originally posted to Denise Oliver Velez on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 06:38 AM PST.

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