Old Traditions, New Generations
By Teresa Holloway
Messenger Reporter
TEXAS – The portentous first day of the New Year approaches and already, many are formulating New Year’s resolutions, plans and schemes toward a happier, more profitable year ahead.
Along with the more common customs of resolutions and black-eyed peas and cabbage, there is a rich history of mythic attempts to ensure a better short-term future.
The tradition of kissing loved ones at midnight isn’t just a celebration or too much champagne, according to several folklore sites.
The midnight kiss seals in good feelings and affections shared by families and couples. Don’t miss the kiss or a cold year is in the cards!
No one wants bare cupboards at the start of the new year. In keeping with traditional lore, larders, cupboards, pantries, freezers and refrigerators should all be stocked up before ringing in the holiday, lest they remain bare all the upcoming year.
By the same token, wallets and purses should be topped up with plenty of money. Every wallet and purse in the home, coin jars and secret stashes should be filled with as much money as possible to guarantee prosperity for the new year.
Start the new year out right, traditionalists often urge, by paying off all the old bills and personal debts and starting fresh.
Paying off old bills may make many feel like a lucky individual, but the experts on folklore assure there is only one really “Lucky Bird” or first-footer.
According to legend, the first person to enter your home after the first stroke of midnight will influence the following year.
Ideally, the first-footer or Lucky Bird should be tall, dark and handsome with an armload of gifts. The perfect hostess gift at midnight could be a lump of coal, a silver coin, bread, evergreen boughs or even a sprig of salt.
Blonde or redheaded first-footers are guaranteed to bring bad luck, as are female visitors. Lore experts urge them “shooed away” lest they bring disaster upon the household.
The Lucky Bird must knock and be admitted ceremoniously, rather than simply barging in even if he lives in the home. After he deposits his gifts of future prosperity, he should leave the house by a different door than he used to enter.
No one should leave the home after midnight on New Year’s Eve until the first-footer has crossed the threshold headed inside.
Guard against first guests who have flat feet or eyebrows which meet in the center.
Some disagreement exists about the traditional forbidding of taking anything out of the home on New Year’s Day.
Hard-core lore practitioners forbid even garbage to be removed until after midnight on New Year’s Day. Don’t sweep or shake rugs, take out empties or the old Christmas tree.
Softer traditionalists claim taking things out is okay, but only after the first-footer has crossed the threshold on New Year’s Eve and brought gifts of prosperity.
The basic premise, something good must come in before anything can go out.
Those who live alone shouldn’t panic. It’s perfectly acceptable, according to these experts, to tie a string to a basket handle and drag in good-luck items. Just don’t cross the threshold doing so.
Southerners like their food and many superstitions regarding comestibles exist. Black-eyed peas and cabbage and other old favorites fill pots across the south on New Year’s Day.
Less well-known are admonishments against eating any type of chicken or turkey on New Year’s. Myth has it that like the birds themselves, eating fowl which scratch in the dirt will leave the consumer “scratching in the dirt” for dinner all year.
Work brings money, money brings food and it’s a good idea to engage in something related to employment on New Year’s Day. “Don’t overdo it, just dabble,” the experts say, otherwise work will dominate the entire year to the detriment of all else.
On the slightly more morbid side, lorists warn that doing laundry on New Year’s Day could cause a family member to be “washed away,” or die in the upcoming months.
Wearing new clothing on New Year’s Day is recommended even internationally to keep new garments coming in all year long.
Likewise, do not pay bills or lend money on the holiday. Folklorists guarantee those payments will continue all year.
Don’t cry, break things or otherwise create negative energies which may be reluctant to leave in the upcoming months, experts warn.
Of critical importance, the Old Year must be let out at midnight. All the doors of the home should be opened to allow the Old Year to depart. Old Year must leave before prosperous, shiny New Year can enter.
To help Old Year find his way out, make loud noise at midnight. Not only does this encourage Old Year to leave, it also purportedly wards off evil spirits.
Church bells are rung during weddings and funerals for the same purpose. Old Scratch and his evil minions hate loud noise.
To forecast the weather for the rest of the new year, watch the wind. If it blows from the south, fine weather and prosperous times are ahead.
Winds from the north may bring bad weather and less prosperity. East winds bring famine and calamity and west winds will bring a year of plentiful milk and fish – but also the death of a very important person.
Best of all, no wind signifies a joyous and prosperous new year for everyone.
Here’s hoping for a quiet, still day, a dark, handsome stranger bearing coal and pine limbs, lots of noise, no chicken and quarts of black-eyed peas for everyone this New Year’s Day!
terholloway@hotmail.com