Thinking back to our New Years celebration as a kid I fondly remember my mom making a special punch of orange sherbet and seven up, a tray of Kielbasa cut up in circles with colorful toothpicks in each one and leftover Christmas cookies for dessert. Right before ten, (kid's midnight) my mom would pull out pots, pans and large serving spoons and give a set to each of us while she nudged us all out to the front porch. She would start the countdown and with each number she called, the louder we got until the highly anticipated "Happy New Year!" We would bang our pots (sometimes each other) and squeal with laughter. This memory got me thinking of New Years eve and New Years day traditions, where they come from and why we do them.
America is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. Did you know that the pork and sauerkraut many of us eat on New Years Day is a German/Eastern European tradition? It is believed that the eating of sauerkraut will give you prosperity and wealth in the new year due to the whole cabbage's green color. The Pennsylvania Dutch say, 'The pig moves forward'. Loosely translated this means move forward in the new year with many blessings and wealth.
In the South they eat Hoppin' John, a stew made of black-eyed peas. It is believed that the black-eyed peas symbolized coins and eating them insured economic wealth for the coming year.
Italian Americans eat Cotechiro (Pork and lentils). The pork represents the fat or the bounty of the land and the lentils, shaped like coins, are eaten to encourage wealth in the new year.
My superstitious maternal grandmother of Irish decent would visit us on New Years eve with a loaf of Christmas bread, always entering through the front door and leaving out the back. She said the New Year had to begin with a clean house (ours was not) so the year would signify a fresh start. We also had to chase the bad luck out of our house by beating the walls and doors with the Christmas Bread. Grandma said by doing this we would be inviting good spirits in. No wonder I slept with the lights on.
My favorite tradition comes from Latin America. Did you know that the color of your undergarments on New Years Eve can bring you good luck? Red means you will find love, green equals good health and yellow brings prosperity and success. For added protection, I say go for the rainbow. It worked for the Leprechaun!
New Years traditions have evolved over time— the ball dropping in NYC's Times Square, Dick Clark morphed into some guy who hosted American Idol, noise makers, popping champagne, kissing at midnight, ringing in the new year to waking up New Years Day to the Rose Parade, football and the "MUMMERS!" The Mummers Parade is a longer story. The short of it, they look like men dressed in drag with umbrellas dancing to music, but it is so much more. Talk about tradition. If you are not from Philadelphia, like me, it takes a wee bit of getting used to. Check it out at: mummersmuseum.com