231: New Year’s Eve

I hope 2016 will be a year of blessings for you and your home. Here’s some New Year lore from Vance Randolph’s “Ozark Magic and Folklore”:

“Mrs. Mabel E. Mueller, of Rolla, Missouri, tells me that the old-timers were careful never to let the supply of salt get too low they believed that to run completely out of salt meant a whole year’s poverty and privation for the family. Above all one should make sure that the salt shaker is full on New Year’s Day, since this insures prosperity for the coming year.”

“Every backwoods family, even if no member of the group is able to read, has a calendar and probably an almanac as well, in order to keep track of the signs and phases of the moon. But it is very bad luck to hang up a calendar or almanac before sunup on New Year’s Day, and I have known children to be severely punished for doing so.”

“An unexpected visitor on January 1 signifies that many others will come to the house during the year; this prediction is often regarded with mixed emotions, since hillfolk do not care for too many uninvited callers. If the first visitor to cross the threshold on New Year’s is a man the family will expect good luck, but if the first visitor is a woman the prospects are not so good. A large group of visitors on New Year’s is regarded as a favorable omen, though nobody seems to know just what sort of good fortune may be expected to follow such an invasion.”

“I have been personally acquainted with several Ozark families who always opened their windows for a few minutes on New Year’s Eve, just before midnight, no matter what the temperature or weather conditions. Asked about the purpose of this, the younger people grinned tolerantly, saying that it was supposed to let the bad luck out and the good luck in. But the old folks said nothing at all and looked very solemn indeed. It was plainly no laughing matter to them.”

“It is considered very important, in some districts, to have black-eyed peas for dinner on New Year’s Day. I have known country folk who rode a long way to get these peas for a New Year’s dinner, even though they did not care particularly for black-eyed peas, and seldom ate them at any other time. Fred Starr quotes a granny-woman near Fayetteville, Arkansas, as saying: ‘On New Year’s you just eat black-eyed peas, with a dime under your plate, an’ wear a pair of red garters, an’ you’ll have good luck the whole year.’”

“Perhaps the most striking feature of the Ozarkers’ New Year’s behavior is their reluctance to allow anything to be taken out of the house on January 1. I once knew a woman who absentmindedly carried a bucket of ashes out on New Year’s morning; she was shaken almost to the point of hysteria, and the whole family was horrified, although nobody seemed to know just what specific calamity was supposed to result. Many broad-minded modernists pretend that there is no harm in carrying something out, provided you are careful to take something else in; thus it’s permissible to throw out a pan of potato peelings if one immediately lugs in a bucket of water or an armload of wood. The real old-timers figure it is safer not to carry anything out of the cabin on January 1, but to pack in as much stuff as possible. Some old folks take this so seriously that they will not allow anyone to enter on that day without depositing something, even if it is only a few walnuts or a handful of chips. This precaution, according to the old tradition, insures a whole year of plenty for the people who live in that house. ‘It aint much trouble, just for one day,’ an old man said as he insisted that I get a stick from the woodpile before coming into his shanty, ‘an’ me an’ Maw don’t aim to take no chances.’”

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