Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year

Here's a page of New Year's customs from around the world:

New Year's Traditions

One immediately notices the universal theme of "noise."

In our family during my childhood and teens, the principal New Year's Day custom was to undecorate and remove the Christmas tree. After doing the same thing during the early years of my marriage, I later abandoned that exhausting, depressing practice. When my husband and I became Episcopalians, I learned that the Christmas season doesn't end until January 6 (Epiphany, Twelfth Night). I now start dismantling the tree on or about January 6 and work on the task for several days instead of trying to accomplish it in a single marathan burst. Because we have an artificial tree, we have no safety constraints on how long it can stay up. Oddly from our contemporary perspective, in parts of England it used to be considered unlucky to keep Christmas decorations past Candlemas (February 2, aka Groundhog Day), so as long as we get the job done sometime in January, we're fine.

Although I was born in Virginia and had a grandmother from North Carolina, I never heard of the black-eyed-peas tradition until I got married. My husband, from a Navy family with roots in the Midwest and West Coast regions, cooks them for himself every year. Each pea is supposed to represent a coin; the more you eat, the more wealth you'll receive in the coming year. Since I dislike the taste of them, he has to accumulate good fortune for both of us.

The Scottish "first foot" tradition holds that it's good luck if your first visitor after midnight on the cusp of New Year's Eve and January 1 is a tall, dark stranger. Sharyn McCrumb has a humorous story, "A Wee Doch and Doris," in which a bewildered burglar accidentally becomes an elderly widow's first footer. You can find this tale in McCrumb's collection FOGGY MOUNTAIN BREAKDOWN.

I haven't made New Year's resolutions as such in a long time. My immediate goals for 2021 are to finish and submit a story for a line of Christmas-cookie-themed fiction planned by one of my publishers and to work on getting more of my orphaned e-books (from defunct publishers) re-released through Kindle self-publishing.

My main Christmas present this holiday season was the full DVD set of the TV series MASH. One memorable episode begins and ends on two New Year's Eves, bookending a montage of a year in the life of the MASH unit. At each New Year's Eve party, Col. Potter proposes the same toast, which goes something like this: "Happy New Year, and may it be a durn sight better than the last one."


Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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