Black-Eyed Peas, Greens, and a Legend
New Year's Day in Georgia means one thing. A plate of black-eyed peas & greens. They say the peas are for luck and the greens are for money in the coming year. The greens might be collards, mustard or turnip greens. City folk, or newcomers trying to fit in, might even eat spinach. I don't condone such an alteration of tradition but to each his own. As always, we'll have cornbread with our legumes pursuant to Georgia Code 1-1-1. Rules are rules. And of course, the pig has his role. Somewhere in there you'll find a hog jowl, a ham hock, streak-o-lean, fatback, salt pork, maybe even a pig ear or foot for the really dedicated.
There's a legend, that may or may not be apocryphal, that goes with this tradition. It's plausible and also the 150th anniversary of the legend, so it's worth a mention.
150 years ago this fall, Sherman marched across Georgia. And unlike the historical revision on the Georgia Historical Society's new Scalawag Sign on Sherman's March to the Sea, they crossed the state, from Rome to Savannah, like a swarm of locusts, stealing everything that wasn't nailed down and half of everything that was. The rest they just burned.
But there was something they disregarded. A very important something. As Georgians stood in the smoldering ruins looking at what remained, they found that Sherman's army had turned their nose up at the peas and greens. Thinking it all silage for the animals they had carried off to eat themselves. The Yanks left these tasty morsels behind.
What the blue-clad bandits didn't realize is that it is not the cow's food. It's our food! So Georgians ate black-eyed peas and collards and whatever pork scraps the Yankees had refused to tote off. They washed it down with well water or "Confederate Coffee." And they survived. And then they rebuilt.
They also remembered. And, like the Hebrew Passover, they kept the tradition. They passed it to the next generation and told the story of when the plague came and God provided.
So tomorrow, we'll eat peas and greens. And we'll talk about it here. See you then!
1/1/2015 04:48:00 am
Black Eyed Peas for pennies in the coming year. Greens for the dollars and pork or hog jowls for good luck. Get it right.
1/1/2015 05:58:38 am
It is true that some Southerners hold "peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold" to be the legend. This take on the tradition came into being in the years after the War Between the States and is popular in its own right.
1/2/2015 07:05:21 am
However, considering that collards have symbolized wealth since the days of a ancient Greece & Rome, peas have symbolized luck since the beginning of their cultivation in Africa, and both of those symbols being accepted throughout the South for centuries, I assure you, I have it right. Thanks for reading!
1/8/2022 12:38:28 pm
Thanks for the article. I did not know where the tradition started. Nor did I know about the connection to that arsonist Sherman. Hubby will be interested in this article, too.
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Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire