Superstitions of celebrating the New Year!
I never remember celebrating New Years as a young child… not sure where those memories went… or if I even had them. Until I moved to Connecticut, I had no memory of even seeing the celebration in Times Square. I only remember thinking how far New York seemed to me from Georgia… now I’m like two hours away on the train. Even after marrying, New Years as always been low-key for us unless we went to a friends house to celebrate the New Year… and today… who even wants to be on the road… or endure a mask all evening… just to be out!
The only memory that still comes to mind for me on New Years Eve is how my father never failed to call me… just minutes after the clock struck 12! Daddy always partied that night… and tipsy or not, he called to wish me a Happy New Year. I haven’t had that phone call in 39 years… and I’m still missing it! I usually called Mama in the morning to wish her a Happy New Year… and now that call ended in 2020. Life is never the same once both your parents are gone.
Mama never failed to remind me that it was bad luck to leave my Christmas decorations up past New Years Day. I don’t always abide by that now… as I enjoy the Christmas lights at night… especially when I seem to always put them up so late. For some reason, I just never get in the holiday spirit until Christmas Eve closes in on me.
In years past, I asked Mama if she had any New Years memories… “I don’t think I even knew anything about New Years Eve as a day of celebrating when I was young. Back then, it wasn’t considered a special day. People then were only concerned where their next dollar was coming from, in order to feed the family. It was just another work day.”
I do remember the foods Mama cooked on New Years Day… it was good luck to eat black-eyed peas and greens on New Years. Mama only served turnip greens… they were her favorite. She often talked about how she’d go to Granddaddy Bryan’s field to pick a mess of them when pregnant with me. Guess that’s why they’re my favorite! The lore of why you eat the peas and greens is… to ensure wealth in the New Year… the peas are for the coins and the greens for the money.
In remembering other superstitions Mama talked about in regards to New Years are… “The older people talked about opening a window or door on New Years Eve to let out all the bad of the old year… and let the new year in.” Mama laughed how her mother wouldn’t even sweep the house on New Years Day… as it was considered bad luck… and how you might sweep a family member out of the family. You also weren’t suppose to wash clothes on that day… or you might wash a family member away. Those tales tend to remind me of walking on a sidewalk… and trying to not step on a crack and break your mothers back… I still try to not step on those cracks!
From Conversations with Mama:… When I called Mama tonight I asked what she ate for supper, and… “I had French toast again… I’m on a new kick, and until I tire of it, I’ll eat it for awhile with my egg McMuffin sandwich that I like to make myself. You should love turnip greens… as I ate my fill of them when I was pregnant with you. I was always in Mr. Paul’s turnip patch. Actually I think I like collards now more than turnip greens, they aren’t as bitter. If you haven’t cooked fresh turnip greens, they’re easy. Wash them real good, then cut out the big stem that run up the middle of the leaf. Fill a pot with water and boil them just until the water turns a little green, then dump that out and fill up again with fresh water and continue cooking. By dumping the first water out, it takes some of the bitter out. Add salt and pepper and a piece of fresh ham; I don’t like to use cured ham. Nothing is better than a big dish of turnip greens and cornbread. I need to stop talking about them, as I’m making myself hungry. I like to eat, but my cooking days are over; I’m not going to spend a long time in the kitchen now preparing food – I only want to cook quick and easy, and mostly use the microwave if possible. Gives me more time to go back and crawl in bed with my dish and find a good movie… maybe the next time you come down though, I’ll cook you a pot of turnip greens and make you some cornbread. I think I used to have mashed potatoes with them too.” (Mama never did cook me that pot of turnip greens… only a memory now of remembering them, but I do get my fix of them when we stop at Cracker Barrel…it’s always my choice of a vegetable.)
I think Southerners have more “sayings” or superstitions” than Northerners… and my mother had plenty. Last night a post rolled across my Facebook wall on Southern expressions, and immediately I thought of Mama… she was the last generation to use many of those Southern expressions. As I read down the list, the first few were definitely the standard… who doesn’t use “Y’all” or “fixin” and even “reckon” in everyday speech. When I moved to Connecticut, they were the first words everyone picked up on, along with my southern accent. I also used to say “cut the light off“… and that turned heads! Every once in awhile today I’ll throw a “reckon” or “fixin” in… just to see who’s paying attention! While I never remember saying, “well bless your heart“, I do remember hearing it. The few times I say it today… is in being sarcastic… and often meant to take another direction.
Until Mama’s dying day… she still spoke her southern words… never did she pull on a pair of pants… it was always… I have to put my “britches” on. I don’t think I ever used that word or “youngins“… in reference to young kids. One I never liked was… come “give me some sugar“… which meant a kiss on the cheek. I do remember hearing my grandmothers or older family members say that me, but it was never a word I used.
If you’d like to read more of my family’s Southern expressions… click over HERE.
Wishing everyone a safe and healthy New Year!
To read Family Stories… click HERE.
© 2022, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved