Tradition! Tradition!

I’m sure y’all will be shocked to learn that I’m not one to get hung up on tradition. I’ve already taken down the tree, packed up the Christmas crap, and returned the house to normal. This is a new record for me; usually I do it on New Year’s Day. But the way the holiday fell this year gave me an extra weekend to clean up and I am overjoyed to have everything back to normal before New Year’s Eve. You know what? Christmas is messy and a lot of work and involves turning my home inside out for a month and I hate it. Also, you people who keep your tree and lights up until Valentine’s Day? Just, no. Seriously, get a new hobby.

I’ve heard some pretty crazy New Year’s superstitions, like how you aren’t supposed to take anything out of the house on New Years Day because you might do without it in the coming year. Or how you’re not supposed to do laundry on New Years Day, as you could wash away the life of a loved one. Okay, who thinks that last one was invented by some overworked housewife who just wanted a day off?

The New Year is filled with lots of weird traditions too, and I don’t mean the “getting drunk and passing out in Times Square” kind, either. Someone told me that at midnight you’re supposed to open the back door to let the old year out and the front door to let the new year in. I think if we did that we’d spend the rest of the night herding cats back into the house. Also, I’ve heard of this thing where you put money outside the front door before the year goes out, then bring it back inside when the New Year arrives — all without crossing the threshold.

I do have one thing I do every New Year’s Eve. I’ve written about my New Year’s Eve burn list here before; that’s where I make a list of all the things I don’t want to take into the new year, then go outside and burn it. And people, it works! Last year I put the Tea Party and Sarah Palin on the list and look what happened. I rest my case.

I haven’t really devoted much thought to my list this year but we’ve got lots of candidates for burning. There are some Tennessee Republicans whose names will make the list this year for sure. Also probably the NRA, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and climate change deniers. Those last two are on the list every year, by the way. Some funk is just too nasty to burn off all in one year.

New Year’s Day has a lot of food traditions. In the South you’re supposed to eat black-eyed peas cooked with ham and collard greens; I think it’s supposed to symbolize good luck, love and money or some such. People, I have tried this tradition and I just can’t do it, I just don’t like the dish. Southern food and I do not get along, too bland, too starchy, too salty, too fatty. So Mr. Beale and I are going to start a new tradition. We’re making margaritas and tacos tomorrow. The green stuff can symbolize money, the golden taco shells and cheddar cheese can be good luck, the meat and tomatoes can be romance, and the onion can be excitement or something. Why the hell not?

So, I would love to hear what your New Year’s Eve traditions/superstitions are. What’s on the agenda for tonight?


Filed under Holidays, New Year's List

19 responses to “Tradition! Tradition!

  1. Min

    I didn’t put a tree up this year–no time–but I did decorate about a week and a half before Christmas. My decorations stay up until Ephiphany (Jan. 6), because I’m Episcopalian, and that’s how we roll.

  2. demcommie

    “I’ve already taken down the tree, packed up the Christmas crap, and returned the house to normal.”

    Buddy and I discussed putting up a tree and decided that there are more than enough out there in nature. What he wants to get is a decorated fire hydrant.

    “Also, I’ve heard of this thing where you put money outside the front door before the year goes out, then bring it back inside when the New Year arrives — all without crossing the threshold.”

    I’m pretty big on that one. Put a couple of inches of Benjamins out there and send my your address.{;.0

  3. mustangbobby

    I put up a fake wreath my folks bought at Publix in 2001 when they came down to Miami for my first Christmas in Florida since 1973 and we hung it on the door of the motel room in Flamingo where we stayed Christmas Eve. I put out a music box that’s been in our family for 50 years. That’s it. We Quakers don’t go for much in the way of celebrating any holiday — every day is a holiday, right? — and tonight, in keeping with that, I will stay home, catch up on TiVo, work on my novel, and probably fall asleep before the ball drops. Besides, going out is dangerous: too many drunks on the road, and around here they shoot off guns to celebrate. Those rounds gotta land somewhere, and I’d rather not catch one.

    • Tracey

      In my state, a 10-year-old girl who was sitting in her own yard watching fireworks with her family was killed when some moron shot up the sky, oblivious to the fact that bullets do not travel upward into space forever, but must come back down.

      • I saw that story. Tragic.

        IIRC, that’s how Eric Cantor’s office supposedly got a bullet through the windo: some idiot celebrating New Year’s Eve and firing a gun into the air, because it always works so well on TV.

  4. hamletta

    I’m with Min, ’cause I’m Lutheran, and that’s how we roll, too. Except in my particular family, we drag heels until Jan. 10, my Mom’s b-day.

    A guy who works in the Federal building next door to my church is the scoutmaster for the troop at Belle Meade Methodist, which has sold Christmas trees for 55 years. He said he was at first gobsmacked at all the Lutherans showing up on the 23rd when they were ready to start giving away the trees to the needy.

    My main NYE tradition is staying home. I tended bar for years, and hate NYE with a passion. It’s the ultimate Amateur Night: twice the work for half the money.

  5. We saw an SUV with a tree on the roof the day after Christmas. Still haven’t figured that one out.. The LW took down all the decorations yesterday while I went to see Bilbo. Packed up the tree today – yes, it’s artificial.

    For NYE we stay home, avoid the amateur drunks, open a bottle of something bubbly – this year it’s from right here in MI – and eat a few snacks.

    Then on New Years day, we wake up in our own bed. It’s all good.


  6. PurpleGirl

    Last year I decorated in the living room and had a tree. This year I didn’t feel like having a tree or even getting pine boughs. However, because I got really lazy and didn’t take the decorations down last year, they were still up for this year.

  7. PurpleGirl

    A church member of Danish/Norwegian background told me a tradition in Danish families is to drink a toast of Cherry Heering (a cherry brandy) at the turn of midnight.

    Another tradition I’ve heard of is to eat pieces of ham cooked in split pea soup. No mention of collard greens made by the friend who told me about this one.

  8. As per tradition in the Philippines that my parents have carried over here in the US,….. we fill up the dining table with food, fill up rice container with , well, rice, the salt container too, do the laundry one day before ( or else you’ll be doing the laundry all your life or something like that. )

  9. My sister and I were always fond of “Black-eyed Susans,” a colloquialism for black-eyed peas presumably from Oklahoma where my mother was born in Tulsa in 1931. We held no particular family traditions for the coming new year. My wife, however, read somewhere or another about cooking black-eyed susans with greens and some pork flavorings under the name of Hoppin’ John. The way she makes it is healthy enough. Not much fat and even less protein. A marvelous presentation of mustard or collard greens, born of that special gift for cuisine that she possesses.
    Christmas is part of the New Year’s celebration. In our Christian culture, the two cannot truly be separated. We all read in the NYT what a wonderful tradition the New Year is in Russia. Well, they couldn’t really have a St. Nick under Stalin, so they came up with Father Time. No shortage of snow in the Ukraine winter. Rather than having thirty days of Christmas preceding the day itself, my house prefers to observe the twelve days of Christmas ending on January 6th. People that tear down their tree on boxing day are usually just humoring their children or may have some secular interest in Christmas. Another tradition that my spouse has gleaned from some source is to always clean the fireplace before the first Christmas fire and not clean it between Christmas and the New Year.
    I had a fairly hare-brained scheme to celebrate the end of the year this time around which actually came off rather well from a fun point-of-view. My destination was to be the fabled Conga Room in downtown Los Angeles, come hell or high water. Also this trick was to be accomplished without automobile, rent-a-car or very many taxi rides. It was raining the day we took the Amtrak Surfliner out of Solana Beach, Sunday December 30th. By the time we got to Union Station, it was sunny and warm. We nabbed a hotel in Santa Monica and made our way by bus to downtown Los Angeles, Century City and Hollywood. It was pretty fucking cold when we headed home tonight at sunset. Angelenos are a helluva lot of fun to party with and quite helpful with their connected devices. There was a big football game between the University of Wisconsin and Stanford happening today as well.

    Happy New Year everbody!

  10. greennotGreen

    “Southern food and I do not get along, too bland…”
    Southern cuisine is based largely on West African cooking which includes a healthy appreciation for the chili pepper. If your Southern food is bland, you’re doing it wrong.

    Not that I want to disrespect Tex-Mex in any way (re:margaritas and tacos)! Chipotles in adobo sauce is my favorite food group.

    And SB, cut the 365 days-a-year Xmas tree folks some slack. What is a Xmas tree but an art project with lights? If people want to be festive every day, I say go for it.

    • Southern cuisine is based largely on West African cooking which includes a healthy appreciation for the chili pepper.

      I have never heard that before. Granted I’m no expert, but seriously, that’s a new one on me. Soul food maybe but Southern cooking? Green beans cooked within an inch of their lives so they’re brown, everything turned into a casserole, mac-and-cheese as a vegetable? None of these dishes have ever been served to me with chili peppers on them. Around here, Southern food could be described as “deep-fried, breaded fat balls.”

      • greennotGreen

        I think we’re having a semantic difference. In my experience, “soul food” and southern country cooking is indistinguishable; what you’re describing is what I would call “bad cooking.”

        I got the West African/southern cuisine connection from an exhibit I saw at the Smithsonian, and (if memory serves, and it often doesn’t) the companion book *Seeds of Change*, and an African cookbook, as well as another book about New World foods, but I don’t remember the name.

      • Oh, no “soul food” is very distinct from “southern cooking.” Soul food goes back to the days of slavery, it’s the food of the poor. They may both be Southern but one is the food of poor African Americans, the other is food of wealthier whites. See, we segregated everything down here!

        Here’s a discussion thread on Chowhound explaining the difference.

  11. I never take down the decorations until Epiphany on January 6. (I think another Episcopalian above chimed in with this.)
    The first year I was married my husband and I celebrated New Year’s in Japan (we were living there at the time) – and we were told by our Japanese friends that we should eat “things that are round, for good luck.” I don’t honestly know if this is a general Japanese custom or just unique to our particular friends, but we have continued that tradition for the past 17 years by eating oranges and biscuits (and cookies!) on New Year’s Day. (Because, I love both oranges and biscuits and why not have an excuse to eat them?) My family is from Arkansas so I generally do make black eyed peas and ham on New Year’s Day, but this year I was out of black eyed peas so I made split pea soup with ham, which seemed like an acceptable equivalent. My Polish-American husband insists on eating pickled herring at midnight.

    • My Polish-American husband insists on eating pickled herring at midnight.

      LOL. I’ve not heard of that tradition before. Okay, now you’ve given me an idea for an article next year, all of the different New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world!