Now here's the surprise: This is not originally a Southern tradition, it's a Jewish tradition! Apparently the New Year-Black Eyed Pea-Good Luck connection is in the Babylonian Talmud! When the first Sephardi Jews migrated to Georgia in the 1730's they brought the idea with them and, Bing!, Southern tradition.
Having great respect for the strength of both Jews and Southerners, and wanting all the good luck I can get my hot little hands on, the peas will be ready about 4. And like in the photo below, they will be served in my Mother's Franciscan ware.
As far as preparation goes, I'm goin' with the peas-fat back-onion-chopped jalepeno-salt & pepper-simmer low forever method.