A Lucky Tradition Spreads. No one knows for sure exactly when this happened, but the various ingredients blended to create a new New Year’s Day tradition in Southern kitchens. Perhaps enslaved African American cooks in plantation kitchens came up with the idea of substituting the dark “eyes” of the black-eyed peas for the first footer visitor after hearing about the tradition. European slaveholders, including those of English and Irish heritage, may have had the same idea after noticing how the enslaved held field peas in high esteem. Another possibility is that Sephardic Jews who came to the South, especially those with a connection to Syria, inspired others to copy their custom of eating black-eyed peas for good luck on Rosh Hashanah, their New Year’s Day. In any case, a new and enduring tradition was born.