Every year since I can remember, except on New Year’s Day 2011, I have eaten black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck. I don’t always eat the greens, which are supposed to bring money in the new year, but “hoppin john” has been on my menu each year except for this year’s one noticeable faux-pas. On New Years, 2006 I made my boyfriend drive from store to store until he found an acceptable can to bring along to a weekend away. In 1998 I spent the new year at the South Bronx home of a Puerto Rican friend. Her family had never even heard of the tradition and did not know if Goya made black-eyed peas, so we spent all day scouring the South Bronx for a can (hint: “black-eyed peas” does not translate directly into Spanish). We finally found them and I ended up eating a few forksful from the can, cold. But I had a great 1998.

And I won’t even lie — I did feel the difference in 2011. It wasn’t a terrible year for me or anything, more of a holding pattern, stepping stone, take the good with the bad type of year. I had my ups and downs like any other year but in the back of my mind I knew that my luck was tainted for that twelve months. I knew the reason it was “just ok” instead of “amazing” was that on New Year’s Day 2011 I got so caught up in brunching with friends in New York City that my lifelong tradition slipped my mind. Before I knew it, it was January 2, 2011, and I realized I’d messed all the way up.

Now that I know my life won’t crumble if I forget to have black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, I’m even more determined to make sure I have some this year. The need for peas to bring in the New Year is important to me as a Southern tradition that I’d like to preserve. Frankly, the tradition still carries more weight with me than any superstition or even my horoscope; part of me thinks that my failure to follow-through two years in a row will result in some sort of double bad luck, and I just can’t have that. I never win the lottery or even a free Pepsi from the codes that come under bottlecaps, but my life is good and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way. As my mother says every year: “If we’ve been having good luck, I sure don’t wanna see bad.”

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

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  • Ann

    I did it yesterday for the first time. My mom, who’s Jamaican said one of her Caribbean friends (I forget which island) told her to eat rice n black eyed peas with saltfish for luck in the new year. So, looks like we’ve got a new tradition.

  • ahimsa

    Even though I have not lived in the south for many years I still try to eat black-eyed peas, along with some greens and cornbread, on New Year’s Day. I’m always on the lookout for a good recipe for black-eyed peas but it has to be vegetarian, too, which narrows the choices a bit.

    This year I found a wonderful recipe in an old cookbook (Passionate Vegetarian) that I had never tried before. It’s a stew that includes sweet potatoes and greens. It was yummy! By the way, I have no financial connection with the cookbook or author, it’s just one that happens to be on my bookshelf.