Friday, January 7, 2011


By Karen Sharpe

My grandparents were from the south and every New Year’s Eve there was traditional dishes of some sort of pork, black-eyed peas or hoppin’ john, collard or turnip greens and cracklin’ cornbread. I recall my grandmother saying the peas were for luck, the greens for money and the pork was for prosperity. Not sure what the cornbread was for, but it made the rest of the meal rather tasty! Of course everything was made from scratch; and I would do my part by helping her pick the greens. Back then, turnips actually came with the greens attached. My grandfather, who was from South Carolina, used to say the reason why they ate pig feet was so we could always move (or point) forward in the new year. My grandmother, from Arkansas would agree somewhat with that, but would say if we were eating pig ears or hog jowls that was because the pig pushes forward with its snout and rarely does this with his ears back. When I would ask why don’t we eat any other kind of meat for New Years, they would give me reasons that made me glad I was a native New Yorker. Since chickens and other fowl scratch the ground backward and had feathers, eating birds could mean your own feathers would be ruffled and would wind up going backward through the year. Eating beef would be wrong because cattle stand still a lot and that would make things “tough” for the year. What about lobster I would ask … no good – they walk backwards too. Damn! Oh well, I thought, just pass the hot sauce and I’m good to go.

Some of the New Year traditions are borrowed from other countries and have made it into American culture. You’re not supposed to sweep on New Year’s Day because you would sweep out all of your good luck. You are not supposed to carry anything out of the home – not even the garbage – unless you have already brought something in. Bad luck to wash clothes or sew on New Year’s Day because if you do, you’ll be doing the same for a dead person before the year is out. Most importantly, what you are doing on the first day (I’ve also heard at the stroke of midnight), will affect your fate or set the pattern for the other 364 days.

In some traditions, the entire house must be clean on New Year’s Eve, which includes laundry. I have even heard that it’s bad luck to leave the Christmas tree up after New Year’s Eve. At the stroke of midnight, you should also make a whole lot of noise to drive out the evil spirits from your home – they hate noise. One should also make amends with those you’ve had cross words with, which makes for a clean start to the new year. Paying off the bills prior to New Year’s Day so the household would not be in debt seems to be a prevalent tradition in many countries. Cupboards are supposed be stocked so that will be the way they should stay for the rest of the year. To kiss loved ones at midnight ensures warmth and close ties for the next 12 months. Supposedly, if you don’t kiss your significant others, that means you will set the stage for the “opposite of warmth” in your year.

Superstition also holds that the first person who sets foot into your home after the stroke of midnight should be a dark-haired man, preferably tall and good-looking, bearing some small gift. I read an old English superstition that goes even further – blond or redheaded men bring bad luck – and if the first footer is female, shoo her away, even if you have to aim a gun at her, just don’t let her in before a dark man crosses your threshold first. I howled with laughter after reading that pearl of wisdom.

On, I read something that would pertain to me as a single person. One who lives alone should place a few lucky items in a basket that has a string attached to it, to be placed outside the door before midnight. After midnight, the solo celebrant “hauls in” his/her catch, which has to be pulled in by the string over the door jamb rather than picked up by hand. Because of the sloppy condition of the city and neighborhood roads, I’m not venturing anywhere this New Year’s Eve. I also have a bad cold, so no one’s getting kissed – I don’t want anyone to get what I have. Tonight I’m having top sirloin marinated in whiskey barbeque sauce, red peppers sautéed with broccoli and corn, with couscous. No champagne will I be drinking this year; just a couple of shots of tequila, in celebration of making it to another year. I am not putting out any baskets to haul in my catch or cleaning my apartment. I will make a few alterations regarding that New Year’s traditional meal. I’m having pulled pork, green salad with chick peas, au gratin potatoes after snacking on snow crab claws. What the hell, crabs walk sideways; which is better than backwards.

As far as what will I be doing on New Year’s Day that will affect my fate for the rest of the year? Writing! However, the laundry can most definitely wait until January 2nd. And if the tall, good looking “first footer” crosses my threshold (He better have my Christmas present with his bald-headed crazy self!), we’re going out to eat! Happy New Year!♥

Karen P. Sharpe has been an astrologer for over three decades. She majored in cartooning and animation, which she uses today in her decorative painting business. Karen worked for years in the typography industry, as a proofreader and a quality control specialist. She wrote nonfiction articles for several weekly NYC newspapers, and monthly astrology columns for CableView Magazine, Harlem News Group and Street News. Karen’s NaNoWriMo novel is available on Amazon under her pen name, Sydelle Houston, and she is currently working on a collection of erotic short stories called, THE HOT PAGES.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful wealth of folklore, Karen and now I'm thinking back trying to figure out what I was doing at the stroke of midnight or on New Year's Day to see what 2011 holds in store!

    For me, I just try to "start out as I mean to go on" for the year. Start the day with a sense of optimism, excitement and enthusiasm for what is to come. Hoping that the positive outlook is the best foundation for the year.

    Thank you for sharing such wonderful family lore.