A New Year’s Tradition

by Sandra Merville Hart

I didn’t like black-eyed peas as a child. My dad didn’t seem especially fond of them either since my mom only served them once a year.

Yet my dad insisted that everyone at the table eat at least one bite of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. It had been more than a tradition when my dad was growing up. He’d been taught to believe that eating this side dish at the New Year’s supper brought good luck.

While he may not have believed it totally, the tradition had been ingrained in him. He made certain that someone remembered to buy a bag of the dried beans or a can to serve each year.

Every year, that is, until what was to be the final Christmas for him and mom.

That year, he seemed to sense that my mother would not see another Christmas. He called his two children that lived hundreds of miles away and told them to come home for Christmas. His other children were already in the area.

That Christmas, the weather cooperated with mild temperatures. We were all together for about a week. My mom hadn’t been going out for much more than doctor appointments for months, but we managed to get her out for the daily festivities.

With all the grandchildren and in-laws gathered, it felt like a gift to celebrate the holidays together. At one point, my parents and all four of their children found themselves sitting around the dining room table together. It had been many years since that happened. No one wanted to move. It was such a gift, one that never happened again.

No one remembered to buy black-eyed peas for the New Year’s meal. My dad seemed a bit concerned but took it in stride.

The following year ushered in one nightmare after another. There were several deaths in the family, including both my parents.

Do I believe those tragic events had anything to do with not eating that traditional dish? Not at all.

Still, in honor of my dad, I serve black-eyed peas to all who eat at my table on New Year’s Day.