Period Black eyed peas, Gen. Sherman, and good luck

Claude Bauer

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Has anyone heard the story about why eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day in the South is considered good luck? I heard it on the radio today and found it dubious at best.

The legend goes that after Sherman's scorched-earth march to the sea, Georgia's inhabitants and soldiers were left with nothing to eat but black eyed peas, which the Union army had not bothered to destroy because it was considered low-grade animal fodder. However, their ample stores of black eyed peas allowed citizens and soldiers to survive Sherman's deprivations and the peas were forever after associated with good luck and served on New Year's Day.

The same story is also being widely circulated on the Internet. Although my mother's side of the family was from Georgia and Florida and I grew up in Virginia, I had never heard of it until today, nor did we ever eat black eye peas on New Year's Day or associate them with good luck.

And why would Union soldiers destroy everything else but leave enough food lying around to feed starving Confederate soldiers? The story makes no sense to me.
 
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Joined
Apr 3, 2018
Has anyone heard the story about why eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day in the South is considered good luck? I heard it on the radio today and found it dubious at best.

I find the version told on the radio connecting the tradition to the Civil War dubious, but not the idea that black-eyed peas are connected to good luck or wealth, because that's a tradition that goes back to ancient times and is still connected to black-eyed peas in places like the Sudan and West Africa. It's connected to beans or lentils in other ancient traditions. Not sure about the lentils, but the logic with the beans and black-eyed peas (which are technically a bean) is that they magically expand in water, and the idea is that if you eat them on New Year's (or some other holiday, depending on the tradition), then your wealth will expand in the same way, a classic example of sympathetic magic.
 

donna

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Black eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck goes back over 1500 years. According to the Talmud it was Jewish custom to eat the peas in celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Years. It is possible this tradition came with the arrival of Sephardic Jews who came to Georgia in 1730s.

The tradition was said to have spread after the Civil War. This brings the Sherman story into play.

Another Southern tradition is that black eyed peas are the symbol of emancipation. It was New Years Day blacks were freed.

See:

thespruceeats.com/new-years-black-eyed-peas-greens.101706
 

donna

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Where in Ky. was she born. My Dad's family are all from there. My Granny was born in Mercer County and my Granddad in Bourbon County, actually Paris. Love Kentucky and will always think fondly of our time there.
 

Bill_S

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Where in Ky. was she born. My Dad's family are all from there. My Granny was born in Mercer County and my Granddad in Bourbon County, actually Paris. Love Kentucky and will always think fondly of our time there.
She was born and raised in Lynnville, Graves county KY; near Paducah. Her family had a decent sized farm and horse breeding operation with a number of hired workers. For most of her youth she worked in the kitchen preparing the meals for the workers. In about her mid twenties her husband died. thus leaving her responsible for earning for herself and child. She opened a restaurant in the 1930's in Oklahoma; eventually owning three, which were in operation until 1988. Thus, she was a great cook. She was also a succesful business woman at a time which was difficult for women to be such. I was and remain very proud of her.

Cheers
 

donna

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Sounds like a wonderful person. My Granny helped on farm she and my Grandfather had. She had vegetables, chickens, did all the cooking for farm workers and keep all the books for the farm. She was an amazing lady. I learned a lot from her.
 

Yankeedave

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This kind of out of the way, but the last part of the filming of the movie Glory were the Antietam scenes that are shown at the beginning of the movie. They were filmed around an old plantation that survived Sherman.
 

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