Residents share New Year’s superstitions

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 1, 2010

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve the traditions and superstitions of the New Year are unleashed. People kiss, throw confetti, sing “Auld Lang Syne” and sip Champaign as they usher out Old Father Time and welcome the New Year.

When the sun comes up on the New Year, things of “auld” take hold and, even those who vow that they are not superstitious participate “just for old time’s sake.”

Joey Brackner, folk arts program manager for the Alabama State Council on the Arts, said New Year’s traditions and superstitions go back as far the dawning of the New Year.

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“One of the age old superstitions is that, if the first person who enters a house on New Year’s is a man, he will bring good luck to that household throughout the year,” Brackner said.

“I had a male cousin who went early to every relative’s house on New Year’s Day so they would all have good luck during the year. A man entering the house first on New Year’s Day is a pretty widespread tradition, not just around here, but around the country.”

The first-footer or “Lucky Bird” had to be a man. Some people were so firm in the belief that they would point a gun at a female if she “mishappened” to be the first visitor and run her away from the home.

Dot Harrison of Brundidge said her mother’s belief was that no woman should enter a house on New Year’s Day.

“That was a big no, no,” Harrison said.

“If a woman did enter the house, death would follow her. But, if a man came with her and came in the house first, no bad luck would follow. That’s the way I remember it. My mama was superstitious but I’m not. But …”

Harrison did admit, “superstitious or not,” she will not wash clothes on New Year’s Day.

“Supposedly, if you do you’ll be washing after a dead person,” she said. “I’m not taking any chances.”

Mary Parish Adams, laughingly, said that she can’t remember all of the superstitions that her dad, Dutch Parish, practiced but she “washed and ironed last night, just in case.”

“I know that you’re not supposed to wash or iron on New Year’s or mop the floor,” she said.

“And you’re supposed to go back out the same door you came in and, if you go out of the house, you’re supposed to bring something back in. I just wish I could remember them all.”

Not even the garbage should be taken out on the first day of the year without bringing something back inside.

What you do on the New Year’s Day you’ll be doing all year long, Harrison said.

“If you cry on New Year’s you’ll be crying all year and, if you break something, wreckage will be a part of your life for the next 12 months.”

It is also wise not to lend money on New Year’s or you’ll be paying out all year long. And, if you wear something new, you’ll likely have more new clothes in the coming year.

But of all the New Year’s Day traditions and superstitions, the one most prevalent and most practiced surrounds what one eats on that day of days.

Eat black-eyed peas and you’ll have something to eat all year long. Eat some form of greens – turnips, collards, mustard, even spinach or cabbage, and you’ll have green money to spend.

Eat pork, especially hog jowl, and good fortune will come your way. An old hog roots forward to find what it needs to “prosper.” Those who dine on pork on New Year’s Day will push forward and prosper in the New Year.

Johnny Garrett, owner of Troy Piggly Wiggly, said his store sells 100 times more black-eyed peas during New Year’s than at any other time of the year.

“We stock up on black-eyed peas, greens and hog jowl,” he said. “People eat all kinds of greens and we sell about two tons of hog jowl.”

Garrett said there is no stereotypical New Year’s shopper.

“It’s everybody,” he said.

“Of course, there are probably more older people that eat the traditional New Year’s Day dinner but it’s young folks, too. I don’t know if they believe they’ll have good luck if they eat black-eyed peas and hog jowl or if it’s just a tradition that everybody enjoys.”

The general consensus was that, next to kissing at the stroke of midnight, peas and pork and greens might be the favorite New Year’s Day tradition.