I Hope You Ate Your Black-eyed Peas

Oh my stars! It is New Year’s Day, and I realized I did not have any black-eyed peas; and I am not referring to the hip hop group. No, I mean the simple, tried and true legume. I needed to get to the grocery store, pronto, but could not until it warmed up enough for the locks on my car doors to thaw; it was so cold last night they were frozen shut.

Panic over black-eyed peas? You bet! I hail from a long line of superstitious people, and right at the top of our superstition list is eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. I cannot remember a single New Year’s when I did not eat them. And I was not going to break that tradition today.

Why are they so important? From earliest memories, I was taught black-eyed peas, cooked with pork (I prefer ham hocks), and greens (kale is my new favorite) symbolize prosperity, because the peas swell; money, because the greens are green; and forward, positive motion, because pigs root forward when foraging. Who does not want to begin a new year with those great omens working for you?

It is helpful to keep in mind, almost every branch of my family arrived in this country in the mid to late 1600s, many of them settling in the mountains of North Carolina. When it was time to move west, they pretty much walked away from their Appalachian lives as one large extended family; proud but determined, dirt poor, barefoot, and utterly superstitious. They loved mountain music, a good story, all things natural, and each other.

I have read many of the journals and records of their oral traditions that have been so kindly preserved through the years. This I know; they believed their superstitions lock, stock, and barrel. They ranged from mild promises to scary, downright “Uh oh, that’s not good” predictions. The list is lengthy, but I will share a few:

If you play with a toad, you will get warts.
If the palm of your hand itches, someone is coming to visit, and he may or may not have a hole in his britches; it depends on whose version is being cited.
Twist the stem of an apple, reciting the alphabet with each turn, and when the stem breaks, you will learn the initial of the person you will marry.
Don’t open an umbrella in the house; bad luck.
Don’t walk under a ladder; bad luck.
A rabbit’s foot brings good luck.
Animals can talk at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Breaking a mirror will bring seven years bad luck.
If a bird flies into your house, someone will die.
If a photograph of someone falls off the wall in your home, someone will die.
If crows gather around your home, get really raucous, and will not leave, someone will die.
If an unfamiliar black cat seeks you out, someone will die.
And now if you are completely wondering what to do about all the gloom and doom superstitions, this will give you a ray of hope, and possibly some help; turn in a clockwise circle seven times, and you will break a bad luck spell.

All right, my black-eyed peas are done. It is time to go eat, and get that mojo going. I hope you all have enjoyed the first day of your brand spanking new year. Resolutions, family, food, sports; whatever activity, or ritual that speaks to you and your traditions, believe in the promise, the possibility that is yours in these coming days. This is your life, make it count.

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About Valleygrail

Native Californian by birth, Pacific Northwesterner by choice. Jack of all trades, master of none; always wishing I could stick with just one thing long enough to become expert. But then what about all those things left unattended? See? Not possible. I love life, my family, friends, a good book, Irish music, rain, fog, and a pint of Guinness. It's a good journey, and sharing with companions makes it even better. Thanks for being with me as I embrace it and you!
This entry was posted in Aging, American History, Baby Boomers, Family, Food, Genealogy, Home, Life Journey, Memories, New Year, Nostalgia, Superstitions, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to I Hope You Ate Your Black-eyed Peas

  1. Hariod Brawn says:

    Darn it, I read this 98 minutes after it turned January 2nd. here in England. Wait a bit though, do time zones count with this miracle working ritual? I’ll knock up some black-eyed peas right now on the basis that I’m on North Carolina time, which in a way, I am, sort of.

  2. nrhatch says:

    I made Hoppin’ John with black-eyed peas, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and saffron rice. Yummy AND Good Luck!

  3. Enjoyed this bio and history, Gail. I hadn’t known what each element of the peas dish meant. Kale is my fav veg, btw. I make kale chips. =) My boy just learned his Appalachian Mt ranges – can point and name them from Vermont down to Georgia and Alabama, and I enjoyed the description of your ancestors and what they took with them in their migration. I know near nothing about my roots “up” on the family tree. Happy new year!!

    Diana

    • Valleygrail says:

      Thank you! I make kale chips, too, with an awesome almond parmesan sprinkled over them. Best snack, ever. I have done genealogy for about 30 years, and it’s given me a better perspective on who I am, and why I am. Your son is brilliant, and blessed that his momma has a heart to teach him. Blessings, Diana!

  4. Ginene Nagel says:

    I didn’t know about the Black Eye Peas tradition. I’m going to ask my southern brother-in-law if he knows about that. Reading through the list of “superstitions” was interesting, especially because I remember distinctly when my grandmother made a comment after a picture fell off the wall hoping no one was going to die, which my grandfather did a couple of days later. And, my mother commenting on all the huge black ravens sitting in a small tree, cawing, cawing, cawing, when my father died.
    Hmmmm…I’m scaring myself.
    Ginene

    • Valleygrail says:

      Those superstitions exist for reasons I believe we are more comfortable dismissing. I heard them frequently as a child, and just thought that was how everyone believed. As I got older, it all became nonsense to me. Then, some life experiences gave me pause, and I stopped mocking such things. Thank you for your comment!

  5. btg5885 says:

    Very good history lesson. I did get my greens in me, which are also important, but missed out on the black-eyed peas. Have a great one.

  6. Luanne says:

    I think I might have seen a tweet from Mary Karr that she was preparing this for her loved ones yesterday! Now I know why!!! Thanks for sharing this tradition!

  7. I didn’t know why Black eye peas were for New Years, and had learned it was a black tradition – obviously a Southern tradition. And what I heard was itching hands mean money is coming your way.

  8. skinnyuz2b says:

    VG, I never heard about the black eyed peas thing before. My father’s family came from England in the mid-late 1600s too. They settled in NY, and I’m still mad at them for not picking a warmer climate.

  9. Today is my dad’s birthday. He’s been gone for seven years, but I think of him all the time, of course, and ‘feel’ him the most on this day, and on January 1, when he ALWAYS insisted that we eat some black-eyed peas. Good memory for me. Thanks for blogging about the tradition.

    • Valleygrail says:

      He knew his stuff! I love that we can hold on to our family traditions, no reasons necessary. Besides, even if they didn’t mean good luck for the coming year, they are good for us, right? Thank you so much for sharing your memory with me.

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