Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Starting the Year Right

I put the parsley on the bottom shelf of the fridge, haven't done any laundry today and am fixing all the recommended foods: ham, cabbage, blackeye peas, kale, as I wrote about in yesterday's post. I swept the floors to sweep out all the old bad luck, and I accidentally fulfilled a Cuban tradition by eating 12 grapes last night. I even remembered to say "Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit" this morning. I think I'm all set to have luck, health, and wealth in the coming year if I don't do anything to cancel out all those superstitions.

It's all just in fun, of course. Do I really believe these things will bring luck? Not really, but I like keeping old traditions alive, and apparently many of my friends do the same. Doing these things brings a smile, laughter, and yes, even hopefulness.  All of these are good and good for us, so the tradition-bearers can definitely say there is a positive aspect to following the old rituals.

Tersi, my storytelling friend born in Cuba, said that she threw a bucket of water out the door last night at midnight to throw out the old year and bring in the new, and it is her tradition to eat twelve grapes. That was new to me, but last night I was snacking on grapes and I'm pretty sure I ate at least twelve. My youngest son, whose girlfriend is from the Dominican Republic, said that he ate 15 grapes with her family last night--one at a time, making a silent wish for the coming year with each grape. All of the grapes had to be eaten by midnight. This tradition apparently originated in Spain in 1909, where a grape was eaten with each toll of the bell at midnight "Spanish tradition says that wearing new, red underwear on New Year's Eve brings good luck," according to Wikipedia.

Last night many people shot off guns or firecrackers, rattle noisemakers or banged on pots and pans at midnight. All of these are probably done for the same reason: to chase away the ghosts of the past year. Apparently the fireworks are a tradition that might have started in Germany, but then the Chinese have long welcomed in their new year with similar tactics. According to the website Chinese New Years, "Fireworks are used to drive away the evil in China. Right after the 12:00PM of the New Year's Eve, fireworks will be launched to celebrate the coming of the New Year as well as driven away the evil. It is believed that the person who launched the first Fireworks in the New Year will get good luck."

Barbara Woodall, author of the book It's Not My Mountain Anymore says we should not do any laundry today. Why? Because if we do, we'll be washing for the sick all year long. No one wants to do that! Barbara also notes in her Facebook post that we should eat lots of turnip greens for lots of green dollars, and "If the first visitor at the door is a male, all your diddlers will be roosters. If a female comes first, all the chickens will be pullets." That last one was new to me, so I will have to watch today to see who comes to my door first, and hope it's a female.

The moon was new for New Year's Day, and my blog friend Granny Kate of the blog Woodsmoke advises putting a silver coin on the windowsill and leaving it there until the light of the new moon shines on it. We'll have two full moons in January, so I guess we need to do it twice? 

Other traditions say not to carry out the trash on New Year's or you might throw out your new good fortune. It occurs to me that many of these superstitions are a way to keep people from working on this holiday! That's a good thing; we all need to stop and rest sometime, and why not start into the new year rested and relaxed? Life will get hectic soon enough.

However you celebrate this day, I hope the coming year treats you with kindness, grace and dignity. And may every happiness come to you and yours as well!

I'll end this post with the song we traditionally at this time of year, attributed to Robert Burns. The title of the song, loosely translated, means old long ago. But did Burns write it? 

The answer is not easy to find. Burns himself, in a letter to his friend Mrs. Frances Dunlop in 1888 sang the praises of an old song he had found called Auld Lang Syne. And in 1793, Burns wrote to another friend that he had collected the song from an old man who sang it for him, and that he noted down the words.

There were actually several old songs floating about in those days that used the words “Auld Lang Syne” within their verses. 
Like this one written by James Ayton in the 1600’s:

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never thought upon,
The flames of love extinguished,
And freely past and gone?”

Or this one, a street song from the late 1600’s:

"On old long syne.
On old long syne, my jo,
On old long syne:
That thou canst never once reflect 
On old long syne."

Whatever its origins, it's certain that Burns created the version we know and love so well today:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give me a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.
(source for these lyrics is Wikipedia, which has a good history of the poem and song)

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

1 comment:


Happy New Year. Had a nice evening last night with the two oldest grandaughters. Still today was hard to get through.
Still getting business in order and more paperwork to fill out. I'll be glad when all the hard stuff is done. Don't think the hard stuff of grief will ever be done.
Enjoyed reading this post about all the various traditions. We had my mother's traditional meal of pork roast, sauerkraut, potatoes, corn bread even pinto beans.
Had eclairs for dessert. Hope all is well with you.
Hugs, B

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