New Year’s Tradition: Black-Eyed Peas

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from an interview between the informant and the interviewer: (The informant is represented by “A” and the interviewer “B”)

A: “Oh, I can give you one more food tradition. Um, which I know is general in the public, but a superstition is black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. So, all of that is you just gotta have some black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. So, and it doesn’t matter, you know, what form it takes although for us, it would always just be somebody would just, some fresh black-eyed peas. And you know what would go with it. It could be anything. You could have greens and spaghetti and fried chicken. Um, you know, we didn’t have jambalaya or gumbo growing up, but, um,… they would mainly be that it could be some fried fish, but you just had to have some black-eyed peas. ”

B: “Do you know if there’s any like, else, like…?”

A: “No. The tradition was it was supposed to be for, I don’t know where it started, but, all I know is it’s supposed to be for good luck for the entire year..”


I collected this piece of folklore during an interview at the informant’s house. My informant, my mother, is an African American who grew up Cleveland, Ohio but currently resides in California. Although, she does not currently do this, she used to do this while growing up.

My Thoughts:

Black-eyed peas are thought to bring prosperity and good luck into the new year. This superstition is mostly prominent in the South, but families that have migrated from the South have spread this tradition nationwide. There is speculation as to why black peas are associated with good luck. My informant was not aware of any of them, but black-eyed peas swell when they are cooked which is thought of as a possible reason that they are associated with prosperity. There are also several legends as to where this tradition stemmed from dating back to the Civil War.