Yes, we keep New Year’s traditions to ward off bad luck

Happy New Year (1910) from Keppler & Schwarzmann
Happy New Year cartoon (1910) from Keppler & Schwarzmann published in ‘Puck’. (US LOC image)

In the US South, superstition is a given. I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood, and regardless of skin color, many people I loved were quite superstitious.

As a young adult, I found it quaint. As a mature adult, I find myself still keeping those traditions to ward off bad luck and bring the good luck in.

One superstition reigned above all else in my grandmother and mother’s minds, though.

Without fail, every year when I wish my mom happy new year, she reminds me. “Don’t wash any clothes today!” She doesn’t have to tell me that, though. For one thing, ducking laundry is an art with me. For another, it’s the dire consequence of doing laundry on New Year’s Day that backs me off. That consequence is summed up by my elderly mom every year:

“If you wash clothes on New Year’s Day, you wash somebody out of your family.”

We also keep the tradition of eating the special meal to bring greenbacks and copper in the coming year. Black eyed peas, greens, and cornbread along with a meat course and stewed tomatoes to top the peas. When I say stewed tomatoes, I am referring to my mother-in-law’s recipe. She always stewed them to a puree, and she put a little brown sugar in them.

Kissing my husband as the New Year rolls in and making as much noise as we can are also part of our celebrations. I guess that’s where fireworks come in, although I can pretty much just sit in my back yard or front and watch the pyro-stuff blast all around me because we have a lot of fireworks enthusiasts in our neighborhood.

It’s also important to not harbor a grudge or anger on New Year’s—if you do, you’ll be doing that all year.

My distant ancestors celebrated New Year’s at the time we celebrate Halloween, but once the Romans conquered them, they assimilated. At least those who were left alive assimilated.

Julius Caesar began to make changes to the calendar that ultimately led to January 1 as the beginning of the year. Caesar got his idea from the Egyptians who based their calendar on the sun instead of the moon.

Many cultures have traditions to welcome the new year and say farewell to the old. Snopes has a roundup of other superstitions that I found interesting. I remember an elderly black lady in my neighborhood when I was a child—she believed in opening the doors to let the old spirits out and the new ones in. I loved that lady very much and so tonight, I plan to add her tradition to our own.

For my family, this year was a far more laid back holiday than usual. We didn’t have our normal entertaining going on because we had some personal matters that made it impossible. I’m hoping the new year will be a blessed one for all my readers. Above all, if you celebrate, be careful and take no chances because if you blow it, you’ll be blowing it all year.

Happy 2020; for “Auld Lang Syne!”

~~~~~~~Ed. Note on photo: The cartoon is one I found in the US Library of Congress digital collection. It was published in 1910 as global politics began to lead to World War I. The cartoon,  annotated by the LOC with the following, indicates that despite media claims, not much changes:

Illustration shows Father Time ringing bells proclaiming “The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number”, while a crowd in the street celebrates the New Year by using noisemakers, horns, drums, and cymbols to sound their personal causes, such as “Partisanship” and “Partisan Politics”, “Ring Politics”, “Spoils System”, “Women’s Rights”, and “Calamity Howling”.

(Kay B. Day/Dec. 31, 2019)

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