Keeping bad luck away on New Year’s

Published 11:00 pm Friday, December 28, 2012

If I had my way, New Year’s traditions would be thrown out the back door with the dishwater.

As a child, New Year’s Day was a time of dread for, if you did “this” or didn’t do “that,” the New Year would bring bad tidings or, even worse, death to your doorsteps.

Our New Year’s Day always had an ominous beginning because it was always my grandmother, Mugi, who came through our door first.

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According to superstition, if a tall, dark, handsome man was the first person to come through your door on New Year’s Day, he would bring good luck to the household. But, if a woman, pretty or pretty ugly, came through the door, she brought with her a bushel basket of bad luck.

Daddy said, that Mugi coming through the door was bad luck. It didn’t matter whether it was New Year’s Day or the Fourth of July.

Mama was not superstitious; she just didn’t take chances on things. If she could head Mugi off, she would “hurry” Uncle Willie through the door first. Uncle Willie looked like Groucho Marx and Daddy said he couldn’t pass for a handsome man even if the sun went out and cast us into total darkness.

Aunt Eleanor, Uncle Willie and Mugi came every New Year’s Day so we could celebrate the coming of the New Year together. Daddy said they just came to eat. He always brought up the New Year’s superstition that, if you took something out of the house, you had to bring something back in or you would have awful bad luck.

When our “company” left late in the afternoon, Daddy would look after them and say “There they go with a truckload of bad luck” because they didn’t bring anything in the door but took a week’s worth of groceries out the door.

Mama would point out that Daddy was still enjoying the Lane cake Mugi brought at Christmas. Daddy said Mugi’s Lane cake was so full of homemade wine that it was strong enough to walk off the table. And, with Daddy right in behind it, Mama would add.

On New Year’s Day we couldn’t wash clothes or hang them out or there would be death in the family. We had to do some kind of work so we would be able to work all year long. My New Year’s work was to dust and that’s one superstition that holds true because I’m still dusting to this day.

One superstition that I liked was the one about not sweeping on New Year’s Day because then Aunt Eleanor had to help with the dishes. Usually, she would get the broom and stand around holding it, like she was doing something while we did the dishes.

But, on New Year’s Day, Mama would say, “Eleanor, leave the broom in the closet. One lick with the broom and you’ll sweep in a year’s worth of bad luck.”

On New Year’s Day, we had a feast, if you could call black-eyed peas and hog jowl a feast.

Mama said that I had to eat black-eyed peas, if it was just one spoonful, so I would have something to eat all year long. I said if it was those ol’ dry peas, I’d just as soon starve to death.

On the dinner table, Mama had black-eyed peas so we would have pocket money all year long, turnip greens so we would have green folding money and a platter of pork so we would “root” forward throughout the year just like ol’ hogs.

We always had sweet potato pie on New Year’s but I’d better not say why Daddy said we had that.

But, what I will say what Daddy said on New Year’s when our company drove out of the yard, “Good riddance!”

And, I echoed his sentiments as the day of dread came to a close. Then I gave thanks that we had made it through without bringing a bushel of bad luck to our house and, perhaps, eaten enough black-eyed peas to sustain us through the next 364 days.