I was first introduced to the tradition of eating black eyed peas and collard greens when I lived in Jacksonville, Florida. At the time I was working at the Mayo Clinic and since being low man on the totem pole, I always worked holidays. It didn’t bother me, when you work closely with a group of people, co-workers tend to develop into family. Two older women who worked in the hospital’s kitchen made me a separate pot of vegetarian black eyed peas and collard greens as the traditional way to cook them often includes bacon. They promised eating beans and greens would bring good luck and financial abundance in the year to come.
The tradition dates back 1,500 years ago and is believed to have started as a Jewish custom. I am told Jewish people celebrate Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish new year by eating black eye peas and greens. Folklore goes that the Sephardic Jews who settled in Georgia in 1730 passed on this tradition to people living in the south. The tradition spread after the Civil War and continues to be practiced today.
Black eyed peas symbolize abundance as they multiply readily and greens…well, do I have to spell it out? Greens symbolize monetary wealth…dollar dollar bills! As the saying goes “eat poor on New Years, and eat fat the rest of the year.”
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