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Dec 31, 2008 08:22 PM

Black-eyed pea "tradition" is an invented hoax

The "tradition" of eating black-eyed peas for luck on New Year's Day was INVENTED (yes, invented) by ELMORE TORN in 1947 (yes, 1947) in Texas.

Millions of Americans have been duped by this great con artist..

Here's the true story:

Torn was an enterprising guy, stuck with canned peas and found a way to get rid of them and have a good laugh besides.

However, everyone loves the "tradition" anyway, and I must admit, I'll be eating them today also.

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  1. Not true. The "good luck" traditions of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day are recorded in the Babylonian Talmud (compiled ~500 CE), Horayot 12A: "Abaye [d. 339 CE] said, now that you have established that good-luck symbols avail, you should make it a habit to see Qara (bottle gourd), Rubiya (black-eyed peas, Arabic Lubiya), Kartei (leeks), Silka (either beets or spinach), and Tamrei (dates) on your table on the New Year." A parallel text in Kritot 5B states that one should eat these symbols of good luck. The accepted custom (Shulhan Aruh Orah Hayim 583:1, 16th century, the standard code of Jewish law and practice) is to eat the symbols. This custom is followed by Sepharadi and Israeli Jews to this day. The first Sepharadi Jews arrived in Georgia in the 1730s and have lived there continuously since. The Jewish practice was apparently adopted by non-Jews around the time of the Civil War.

    3 Replies
    1. re: pippinsrosy

      Silka (either beets or spinach) - probably swiss chard, the red variety. We still call it Siliq today.

      1. re: pippinsrosy

        Black Eye Peas! And all these years I been eatin pickled herring for good luck!!!

        Or NYE tradition was good Jewish Deli corned beef, kosher pickles, belly lox and herring!!!

        1. re: Hue

          LOL, Hue... you are lucky you had so many good years with your New Year's Foods... I didn't so much as see a Jewish Deli until I was out of University! Or taste a Kosher pickle until ten years ago!

      2. I don't care where the tradition comes from. I have eaten black eyed peas and corn bread on New Years Day every tear I can remember. Therefore it is a tradition in my household.

        1. Um, why didn't you just announce that there is no Santa Claus :-)?

          I happen to have grown up in Texas where everyone knows that you are doomed in the New Year without your blackeyed peas! I see you aren't taking your chances either ;-) so we are cool.

          p.s. did you have your cornbread for lasting wealth in the new year (gold) or your greens (I made collards) for cash in the New Year??? If you are in America you still have another 20 or so hours...

          1. All traditions are invented, if you go back far enough.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jlafler

              People invent traditions because they have hope... they believe and want future generations to carry on these things.

              My Great Grandmother was born in 1901 and told me (before she recently passed) that EVERY New Year's in her life included blackeyed peas... for luck in the new year. One pea for every day of good luck in the New Year. Unless she didn't start getting lucky until '47 (and she had two teen daughters by then, so I'd say she got a bit lucky) then I'm sticking with her rendition. And I have at least two hundred blackeyed peas as leftovers to eat tomorrow. :-) Happy New Year, everyone!

              1. Well, this past year sucked in a big way chez moi. And we ate black eyed peas last New Year's Day. Given that, we'll be skipping them this year...

                I need to find a new "lucky" food to eat today!

                7 Replies
                  1. re: roxlet

                    Great idea, roxlet... more lentils/ days of good luck, per spoonful! Maybe I'll cook up some lentil soup today. It's freezing (actually below freezing) in NY today this cold just won't give way yet. Taking some more vitamin C and going back to bed for an hour now... Happy New Year!

                    1. re: ideabaker

                      No way. If I'm looking for a new lucky food, I'm starting with steak, lobster, crab or something like that. It'll be a long time before I get to lentils or their like.


                    2. re: roxlet

                      Hah! I'm covering all bases today:
                      Mexican Pot Beans (pinto) and Italian lentils and sausages.

                    3. re: coney with everything

                      A sweet old Welsh lady who ran a B&B where i stayed once recommended mince tarts. She said that every one you ate at the holidays meant a month without tears in the new year. Since the tarts she made were heavenly, I think I guaranteed myself most of a tear-free year in that one sitting!

                      1. re: MsMaryMc

                        That is lovely, MsMaryMc... heave never heard of that tradition. Maybe as an expert tart maker she created it herself! Hopefully you got the recipe to continue the tradition!

                      2. re: coney with everything

                        My husband is so against superstition that if I were to serve him anything he was supposed to eat (for any reason), he'd reject it. Likewise, I made mince this year to serve on Christmas because it was banned during holy feasts due to it's decadence.

                        If you don't believe in it, does it cease to matter?