New Year’s Eve was not a big deal when I was growing up in Tennessee. We generally went to bed early, and rarely even stayed up to watch the ball drop on TV.
New Year’s Day was the more important event. Mother always cooked black-eyed peas with hog jowl or ham hock and made cornbread. She put a dime in the peas, and whoever found the dime would come into money in the new year. After my brother Gil and I shoveled out half the bowl while searching for the dime, Mother ruled that you had to eat everything you spooned out.
My friend Ed who is African-American has an additional tradition, eating collard greens on New Year’s Day. The black-eyed peas are coins, he says, and the greens are folding money.
Many cultures believe in having pork on New Year’s Day. Pork represents fat, plenty, and thus prosperity. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong–I guess turkey kielbasa doesn’t count!
Another custom in our part of the South held that the first person to cross your threshhold (come in your front door) on New Year’s Day should be a man, preferably a tall, dark-haired man, in order to have good luck in the new year. Apparently this comes from Scottish tradition, and is called “first-footing.” The Scots start at midnight on New Year’s Eve and go visit during the next several days, bringing small gifts that signify plenty like Scotch whiskey or treats.
I’ve had many New Year’s Eves that were pretty decadent. New Year’s Day usually involved recovery and watching the Rose Parade on TV. This year I plan to stay home and celebrate quietly. But I will have black-eyed peas, cornbread, and some kind of pork. And I plan to find a dark-haired man to cross my doorstep. My neighbor Bob comes to mind. It’s time for all the good luck I can get!
A safe New Year’s Eve to all, and a prosperous, healthy and Happy New Year!