Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In With The New, Out With The Old...!

With the New Year just around the corner, I wanted to touch on some a few little known origins of our celebrations.

It's always interesting to find out where our so-called "modern" activities come from.

Many of the superstitions associated with the bringing in the New Year bear the common theme that activities engaged in on that day set the pattern for the year to come. Others have to do with warding off evil spirits or attracting luck.

Because January 1 is the first day of the new year, we have drawn a connection between what we do on that day and our fate throughout the rest of the year. Here are some of the ways we attempt to guarantee a good outcome through our acts on that portentous first day:

* Kissing at midnight: We kiss those dearest to us at midnight not only to share a moment of celebration with our favorite people, but also to ensure those affections and ties will continue throughout the next twelve months. To fail to smooch our significant others at the stroke of twelve would be to set the stage for a year of coldness.

* Stocking Up: The new year must not be seen in with bare cupboards, lest that be the way of things for the year. Larders must be topped up and plenty of money must be placed in every wallet in the home to guarantee prosperity.

* Paying Off Bills: The new year should not be begun with the household in debt, so checks should be written and mailed off prior to January 1st. Likewise, personal debts should be settled before the New Year arrives.

* First Footing: The first person to enter your home after the stroke of midnight will influence the year you're about to have. New for old Ideally, he should be dark-haired, tall, and good-looking, and it would be even better if he came bearing certain small gifts such as a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, a sprig of evergreen, and some salt. Blonde and redhead first footers bring bad luck, and female first footers should be shooed away before they bring disaster down on the household. Aim a gun at them if you have to, but don't let them near your door before a man crosses the threshold.

The first footer (sometimes called the "Lucky Bird") should knock and be let in rather than unceremoniously use a key, even if he is one of the householders. After greeting those in the house and dropping off whatever small tokens of luck he has brought with him, he should make his way through the house and leave by a different door than the one through which he entered. No one should leave the premises before the first footer arrives — the first traffic across the threshold must be headed in rather than striking out.

First footers must not be cross-eyed or have flat feet or eyebrows that meet in the middle.

Nothing prevents the cagey householder from stationing a dark-haired man outside the home just before midnight to ensure the speedy arrival of a suitable first footer as soon as the chimes sound. If one of the partygoers is recruited for this purpose, impress upon him the need to slip out quietly just prior to the witching hour.

* Nothing Goes Out: Nothing — absolutely nothing, not even garbage — is to leave the house on the first day of the year. If you've presents to deliver on New Year's Day, leave them in the car overnight. Don't so much as shake out a rug or take the empties to the recycle bin.

Some people soften this rule by saying it's okay to remove things from the home on New Year's Day provided something else has been brought in first. This is similar to the caution regarding first footers; the year must begin with something's being added to the home before anything subtracts from it.

One who lives alone might place a lucky item or two in a basket that has a string tied to it, then place the basket just outside the front door before midnight. After midnight, the lone celebrant hauls in his catch, being careful to bring the item across the door jamb by pulling the string rather than by reaching out to retrieve it and thus breaking the plane of the threshold.

* Food: A tradition common to the southern states of the USA dictates that the eating of black-eyed peas on New Year's Day will attract both general good luck (financial in particular) to the one doing the dining. Some choose to add other Southern fare (such as ham hocks, collard greens, or cabbage) to this tradition, but the black-eyed peas are key.

Other "lucky" foods are lentil soup (because lentils supposedly look like coins), pork (because poultry scratches backwards, a cow stands still, but a pig roots forward, ergo those who dine upon pork will be moving forward in the new year), and sauerkraut (probably because it goes so well with pork).

Another oft-repeated belief holds that one must not eat chicken or turkey on the first day of the year lest, like the birds in question, diners fate themselves to scratch in the dirt all year for their dinner (that is, bring poverty upon themselves).

* Work: Make sure to do — and be successful at — something related to your work on the first day of the year, even if you don't go near your place of employment that day. Limit your activity to a token amount, though, because to engage in a serious work project on that day is very unlucky.

Also, do not do the laundry on New Year's Day, lest a member of the family be 'washed away' (die) in the upcoming months. The more cautious eschew even washing dishes.

* New Clothes: Wear something new on January 1 to increase the likelihood of your receiving more new garments during the year to follow.

* Money: Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on New Year's Day. To do so is to guarantee you'll be paying out all year.

* Breakage: Avoid breaking things on that first day lest wreckage be part of your year. Also, avoid crying on the first day of the year lest that activity set the tone for the next twelve months.

Other superstitions attaching to the beginning of the new year are:

* Letting the Old Year Out: At midnight, all the doors of a house must be opened to let the old year escape unimpeded. He must leave before the New Year can come in, says popular wisdom, so doors are flung open to assist him in finding his way out.

* Loud Noise: Make as much noise as possible at midnight. You're not just celebrating; you're scaring away evil spirits, so do a darned good job of it!

According to widespread superstition, evil spirits and the Devil himself hate loud noise. We celebrate by making as much of a din as possible not just as an expression of joy at having a new year at our disposal, but also to make sure Old Scratch and his minions don't stick around. (Church bells are rung on a couple's wedding day for the same reason.)

* The Weather: Examine the weather in the early hours of New Year's Day. If the wind blows from the south, there will be fine weather and prosperous times in the year ahead. If it comes from the north, it will be a year of bad weather. The wind blowing from the east brings famine and calamities. Strangest of all, if the wind blows from the west, the year will witness plentiful supplies of milk and fish but will also see the death of a very important person. If there's no wind at all, a joyful and prosperous year may be expected by all.

* Born on January 1: Babies born on this day will always have luck on their side.

Now, my friends, another tradition I would like to continue is to share a fresh cup of coffee with all of you! So, let's go to the kitchen, get a fresh cup, and enjoy each other's company! That's a good thing!


The cottage by the Cranelake said...

I never knew it was such hard work going in to the new year :-) I can fix most of it I belive.

I´ve already payed my bills and I´m going to the grocery store tomorrow. But the Firts Footing is a bit of a problem. My son fits most of that, but he´s very blond :-) Otherwise I´m not sure I can find anyone. Perhaps better get out before it changes to a new year and go in myself first :-) :-) I hope that will work :-)

I´m a painter (the one painting cars and other metal things) so perhaps I can paint a little picture that day? Sort of my job then I think.

Letting the old out. Well we´re going to have around 5F, so that will be quite unpleasant to do :-) :-)

My neighbours will have lots of fireworks this year, so that´ll take care of the noice. But over here it was the trolls that were scared away by loud noices.

It´s going to be southern winds they say, so lets hope for the best :-)

Have a great day now!

HermitJim said...

Hey Christer...
Sounds like you have it pretty much covered, my friend!

That might be a little cold to open the doors, unless you close them right away!

I do hope that your New Year turns out to be a good one, buddy!

TEAM HALL said...

Happy New Year, Jim!! It's been a pleasure sipping a coffee with you in the morning this year...let's continue that, okay? Okay!
Just don't let me be the first one in for coffee on New Year's...a redheaded female sounds like trouble! lol
Have a grand day!

chinasyndrome said...

Good things to know. Having been divoced-single last 12yrs, I would probally blow it with blonde or redhead at 12:01. Happy New Year,Jim.

Gen-IL Homesteader said...

Well, I guess I'm the double-whammy! Female and redheaded! I love these lists you publish. They're too fun! Blessings to you in the New Year, Jim!

JoJo said...

Good Morning My Special One,
Well the bills are paid, the rest is all a problem, so I guess I'm in big trouble. All the men in this village are grey haired or bald lol
Thanks for the information it is fun to read this stuff.
I have learned many lessons from you since starting to read your blog and hope to be reading it for a long time to come. To early to say happy new year yet.
So I will join you around the table this morning for some good company and good coffee.

Momlady said...

Good morning, sir. Some good old advice there. Since I live almost in the middle of nowhere it's difficult to find a person to be the first. Also I do not drive anywhere on New Year's Eve....too many drunks on the road. Nope I stay home and am usually in bed and sound asleep before the new year comes in. My biggest activity of the day is to mark all important days on my new calendar.
Thanks for the coffee and have a beautiful day.

HermitJim said...

Hey Cath...
Red headed and female, huh? Sounds like a little bit of trouble for someone! I'll bet DH has his hands full from time to time!

It would certainly be my pleasure to have the tradition of morning coffee continue!

Thanks so much for coming by today, my friend!

Hey Dan...
Been in the same boat for a while I know where you're coming from! Guess we'll just have to do the best we can, huh?

Hey, thanks for coming by today!

Hey Gen...
Double whammy or're welcome at my table any ol' time! Just be sure it's before midnight on the 31st, OK?

I sure do appreciate you coming by today!

Hey JoJo...
Maybe you can get the grandson to stand in for you! That might work!

Looks like we'll have a good amount of time together this upcoming New Year! That makes me happy!

I certainly am glad you are enjoying my list...and that you could come by today, sweetie!

Hey Momlady...
Sounds like your idea of celebrating and mine are a lot alike! Rather be safe at home in bed, than out on the city streets...!

Hoping you have a safe and Happy New Year, dear friend!

Phelan said...

Could we keep that first footer thing out of my husband's sight. me, blond, female. ggrrr. . .

I think I have everything covered, but I don't like black eyed peas. I feed them to the livestock. And it will be very very cold that night. It will have to be a very quick letting out.

HermitJim said...

Hey Phelan...
Maybe you could make some Hoppin' John...and just eat the bacon!

I have a recipe somewhere for some Black eye pea dip...if you want to try that! Lots of peppers in it!

Hope you and the family have a safe and happy new Year, my friend!

Stephanie in AR said...

When I volunteered as an English conversation partner my Japanese friend said that Asians eat noodles on the New Years for long life - the longer the noodle the better. Also any kind of bean or pea for several reasons: look like money so represents taking in money (like you posted), many years of life (long life again) or abundance/success (lots of #s in a bowl of beans). She thought it very amusing that Americans had similiar traditions.

Another custom she told us about - if you must leave the house before someone has entered then leave walking backwards so that you give the appearance of entering. Take off your shoes at the door & leave them outside so no dirt or filth enters into the home keeping the occupants safe for the coming year or you'll spend the coming year trying to keep your home safe not just from common dirt but also other people's dirty business.

Also from the elderly town historian - whatever you do on the first day of the year you will be doing plenty all year long so be careful not to work too hard or sit around to much (which invokes waiting which means bad news).

I think I'll have my dark headed, tanned Italian husband go outside just before midnight, open the door for him & greet him with a big kiss, call all the away kids, serve spaghetti with white beans leaving the dishes for the next day making sure to have a good dessert with plenty of coffee. Not forgetting to stop by for a visit with the Hermit either.

Now is all that work or pleasure?

Anonymous said...

Hope you have a Happy New Year Jim.

My easiest is having all the bills paid.

But might just have trouble. My new girlfriend is a red head.

Stocking up today with more food.

Always enjoy reading your blog,and the stuff you find.

See Ya

HermitJim said...

Hey Stephanie...
Seems like we are more alike in the world than many of us ever know!

Sounds to me like you have it all covered as far as the New Year goes!

Have a safe and happy one, my friend!

Marie said...

Wow, been living on the edge for years now if I was supposed to know all this, because I had no idea there were so many do and do-nots. Totally plan to continue living on the edge, but enjoyed the list. :) Hope you have a Happy New Year!

HermitJim said...

Hey Tony...
Sounds to me like you're in good shape for the up coming year, buddy!

A red head, huh? Why, you old rascal you! Hey...go for it, my friend!

Happy New Year to you, Tony!

Hey Marie...
Nothing wrong with living on the edge! Keeps us on our toes...and the excitement in our lives!

I do hope you and yours have a safe and happy New Year!

Anonymous said...


WOW - this is great! A lot to take care of and get in order before the first! Have loved your site, laughed with ya', learned from ya', and enjoyed coffee with ya'.

Thanks for all you do to help bring some laughter and encouragement to all of us during these difficult times. Have a very Happy New Year!

MaMaBear in the Mitten

HermitJim said...

Hey MamaBear...
Sure was nice of you to drop by today! I'm glad you got a kick out of the old list!

I certainly appreciate the kind words...and also the visit! Thanks for coming by!