Black-eyed peas and turnip greens continue to be a New Year tradition for the South, but not for Flowers

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Although the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day is thought to be a Southern one, the tradition actually dates back as far as ancient Egypt.

During the time of the Pharaohs, it was believed that eating a meager food like black-eyed peas showed humility before the gods, and you would be blessed.

Dry peas do make good food for the hogs but they are a rather humbling meal for humans.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“But sometimes, you were lucky to get them,” said Hattie Flowers of Brundidge.

Flowers has celebrated 90-plus New Year’s Days but she’s not having one thing to do with New Year’s Day traditions or superstitions as the case may be.

“That about eating black-eyed peas on New Years’ is just an old saying,” she said. “There’s not one word of truth to it. Some people believe if you eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s you’ll have good luck. And, they believe, too, that if you eat turnip greens or collards your money will all turn green in the New Year. There’s not a word of truth to that either.”

When Flowers was a child, she said her dad always dressed out a hog around New Year’s and salted down the hog jowl along with the other hog meat he wanted to cure.

Flowers said the hog jowl was seasoning for the dry peas and that’s how hog jowl came to be a part of the New Year’s Day tradition.

“Back then, farmers planted black-eyed peas and speckled peas to eat and to feed to the hogs,” she said. “My mama would put the peas in a croker bag and put it out in the sun so the peas would dry out. Then, she would hang the croker bags in the crib. When she got ready to cook the peas, she would beat the bag with a battling stick and knock the hulls off the peas.

“Then, she would put the peas in a pan and take the pan out in the yard. She would set another pan on the ground. She would hold the pan of peas up high and slowly pour them into the pan on the ground. As she poured the peas, the wind would blow the husk away.”

The peas would be washed and cooked with hog jowl.

“Probably, what happened was that one New Year’s Day somebody had something especially good happen to them and they gave credit for their good luck to the dry peas they had eaten for dinner,” Flowers said, laughing. “But eating black-eyes peas on New Year’s won’t bring you good luck and neither will hog jowl. Greens won’t turn your money green either.”

Some folks eat chit’lins on New Year’s. Flowers said there’s no superstition associated with chit’lins.

“People eat them because they’re good,” she said.

Flowers doesn’t participate in superstitious behavior, so she won’t have black-eyed peas, hog jowl or greens on New Year’s Day. But chit’lins?

“I had them at Christmas,” she said, laughing.

Flowers said her beliefs are based on the teachings of the Bible, not on superstitions.

“My belief is what God has for me He will give me,” she said. “If it’s not in His plan for me, I won’t have it. And, what He has for me, He will not give to anybody else. But God will withhold our blessings if we are disobedient. That’s what I believe.”

Flowers said there’s no harm in having black-eyed peas on New Year’s just as long as one’s faith and hope are in the Holy Word, not what’s on the dinner table.