by T.M. Schoewe
Are you superstitious? Maybe you’re a Texan or from the Deep South? If you are, on New Year’s Day you will probably say at your holiday meal, “Please pass the black-eyed peas.” Your New Year’s menu must have, if you are a true believer, black-eyed peas. Doing so is to bring good luck, and above all, prosperity for 2014!
This tradition seems to have started in our country during the Civil War when union troops burned all the confederate crop fields except for those where the “cow pea” grew because it was considered feed for livestock. And as it turned out, many people in the war-torn South might have starved but for the sustenance those peas provided them. So having black-eyed peas with the New Year’s Day noon meal for Southern folk is a symbol of gratitude and hope for the New Year! These believers in black-eyed peas, many from the big state of Texas, had been so sold on the legume that they finally convinced our military commissaries to carry them. And now we can find them at our local grocery stores.
Actually, the black-eyed pea is more ancient than our Civil War. Elmer Torn, a Texan nicknamed “Tiger,” discovered that the peas were a good luck tradition in India and Egypt, and also in France. He found that even in the Babylonian Talmud, written around 500 B.C., were instructions for the Jewish people, for good luck, to eat the black-eyed pea! And of course you all know about George Washington Carver, who promoted, along with peanuts and sweet potatoes, the black-eyed pea for real nutritional wallop. The lucky pea is a beneficial source of calcium foliate, iron, potassium, and fiber. And by the way, Tiger Torn was so enthusiastic about the pea that he attempted to provide our troops during the Vietnam conflict with black-eyed peas as a helper for “good luck.” However, General Westmoreland refused the offer.
Anyway, our family spent five years in Texas, and so has been somewhat invaded by this special pea. It is a favorite of my wife and two sons. But its superstitions have never had any hold in the family, as we know the first couple of commandments of our Lord cancel them out. But the versatility of the black-eyed pea continues to amaze us. There is the black-eyed pea enchilada, quiche, cheesecake, and even black-eyed pea wine and a marinade version called “Texas caviar.” But in none of them have we found “good luck” or “prosperity” for the New Year. So, away with that superstition for 2014; it is like putting a rabbit’s foot in your pocket for safety.
Another thought for the New Year is on our “Lazy Susan” on our dining room table amongst the salt and pepper shakers and toothpick holder. It is an olive wood figurine of a donkey with a famous Turkish Hoja (Muslim preacher) sitting on it facing backward. He would ride his donkey from town to town preaching about Allah. Oddly enough he would always sit on the ass facing backward. When asked why he rode backward, he replied that he wasn’t all that interested in seeing where he was going but much more interested in seeing where he had been! That sounds a bit over the weak end. But wait, when we think about it, maybe there is some wisdom in looking back and seeing where you have been.
Now, that great crowd that will fill Times Square yelling, shouting and screaming in anticipation as the clock counts down to midnight ushering in the New Year will burst forth with shouts and hugs and kisses thinking they now have hold on a whole new year. But from Wednesday on they will find the New Year comes just like the yesteryear they thought they were rid of; it comes a minute, an hour, a day at a time! Nothing really new about that!
So maybe the Hoja on the donkey does have some advice for us. At New Year’s, if you stop and look back over the past year, you will find numerous worthwhile things for which you should give thanks. Even the times that might have been rather tough could have been even worse; even those times are worth being thankful for what they didn’t turn into. In our case, we can look over the past and find dozens of “close calls” that may have very well taken us out of the land of the living. Each of us can find dangers we escaped and unexpected happenings in the past year for which to give thanks. Stirring up our memories about our past is probably one of the best ways to prepare for the New Year. Above all it means hanging on to your observance of Christmas, which we just celebrated. The gift of God, the Christ Child called Immanuel, “God with us!” This is what we need to carry in our hearts and lives into the New Year.
This does not mean we should not look forward or not plan in our lives or refuse to be aware of troubles that evidently lie ahead for our country and our lives. Besides what we have to deal with day-to-day in our personal lives, if you listen to your TV or read any of the major newspapers, you will soon be swamped with all sorts of problems we face across the country like unemployment, taxes, deficits, Obamacare, or Medicare and Social Security, inflation, crime, terrorism, election fraud; not to mention those concerns that face us on the international scene.
It is interesting to note that the conditions we face today are not much different in some ways than they were in the little country of Judea and its capital Jerusalem when Christ came into the world to live and die for us. And what did Immanuel say to the worried people of His day? Stop worrying! “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Tomorrow will take care of itself. What we can do something about, we need to do it. But let’s not worry about that which is beyond our control or let it spoil our daily living.
Final thought: keep the Christ child in your hearts, and as you go through the years, with Immanuel in your life you will find that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. So, happy New Year with Immanuel and enjoy some black-eyed peas with your family!
Greetings from Teddy and John, too. Happy New Year!