Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

New Years isn't really celebrated over here like it is in the United States. If you recalled the Jewish  New Year was back on September 22nd this year.

In the Southern Part of the United States we have a tradition of eating black eyed peas for good luck in the New Year. I discovered that we may get this tradition from Jewish tradition.  According to the Talmud 

“Now that you have alleged that omens make a difference, at the New Year, someone should form the habit of eating pumpkin, fenugreek, leeks, beets, and dates.” 

The tradition of eating black eyed peas comes from the mistranslation of the Aramaic word rubiya. It actually translates as fenugreek. Which I had to look up because I've never heard of it. By the time the mistranslation was discovered the tradition of black eyed peas was already in place.  This tradition reached the United States in the 1730's when a group of Sephardic Jews immigrated to Georgia. The practiced was adopted by non-Jews around the time of the Civil War. And like all good Southern vegetable dishes we added some form of pork to it, either as flavoring in the beans or as the main dish served with them. 

Another tradition says we eat the black eyed peas because of the Union General Sherman know for his march to the sea. As he marched through Georgia burning everything the theory is that the Union soldiers would not have burned or carried away the beans. In the North the beans were seen as food for animals and the soldiers wouldn't have touched them. General Sherman captured the city of Savannah on December 21, 1864 and offered it to President Lincoln as a Christmas present. So it is possible that the beans were eaten on New Years because there was nothing else left to eat. 

Either theory for how the tradition started sounds plausible to me.