December 30, 2008

Happy New Year! "Meal of the Day!!!'

I wanted to find the origin of eating Black Eyed Peas and Greens on News Year Day and was surprised to find the "good luck" tradition of eating black-eyed peas 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. These "good luck" traditions date back to the U.S. Civil War. Union troops, especially in areas targeted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, would typically strip the countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock and destroy whatever they couldn't carry away. At that time, Northerners considered "field peas" and corn suitable only for animal fodder, and as a result didn't steal or destroy these humble foods. Many Southerners survived as a result of this mistake.
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