There is a tradition in the South of eating Black Eyed peas on New Years Day. There are many stories about the origin of this tradition. Here is one from a Southerner perspective.
“The Real Story is much more interesting and has gone untold in fear that feelings would be hurt. It’s a story of war, the most brutal and bloody war this nation has ever seen, military might and power pushed upon civilians, women, children and elderly. Never seen as a war crime, this was the policy of the greatest nation on earth trying to maintain that status at all costs. An unhealed wound remains in the hearts of some people of the southern states even today.
The story of THE BLACK EYED PEA being considered good luck relates directly back to Sherman ‘s Bloody March to the Sea in late 1864. It was called The Savannah Campaign and was lead by Major General William Tecumseh Sherman. The Civil War campaign began on 11/15/64 when Sherman ‘s troops marched from the captured city of Atlanta , Georgia , and ended at the port of Savannah on 12/22/1864.
When the smoke cleared, the southerners who had survived the onslaught came out of hiding. They found that the blue belly aggressors that had looted and stolen everything of value and everything that could be eaten, including all livestock. Death and destruction were everywhere. While in hiding, few had enough to eat, and starvation was now upon the survivors.
There was no international aid, no Red Cross meal trucks, no disaster relief, no FEMA. The Northern army had taken everything they could carry, eaten everything they could eat and destroyed what they couldn’t. But they couldn’t take it all. The devastated people of the south found for some unknown reason that Sherman ‘s bloodthirsty troops had left silos full of black eyed peas.
At the time in the north, the lowly black eyed pea was only used to feed stock. The northern troops saw it as the thing of least value. Taking grain for their horses and livestock and other crops to feed themselves, they just couldn’t take everything. So they left the black eyed peas in great quantities assuming it would be of no use to the survivors, since all the livestock it could feed had either been taken or eaten.
Southerners awoke to face a new year in this devastation and were facing massive starvation if not for the good luck of having the black eyed peas to eat. From New Years Day 1866 forward, the tradition grew to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck.”