So far as I’m concerned New Year’s Eve is the most overrated holiday in the wheel of the turning year. Not only because when I was young, I rarely got the date I wanted for the occasion, or any at all. But because we expect so much from it, and then the most peculiar phenomena always occurs: anywhere you are on New Year’s Eve, you are sure it’s more fun somewhere else.
Why have New Year’s begin in the dead of winter in the first place? Sure, the days have gotten a bit longer since we sacrificed that virgin on the Solstice, but the full pay-off won’t come until spring. Pray do not lecture me about Roman or Egyptian math. The Jewish New Year begins in the Autumn, the Chinese in January or February and frankly, that doesn’t make sense to me either. But, as the newest cliche of this year goes: it is what it is.
Every nation and nationality has its sure fire way of ensuring luck in the new year. This usually always involves eating and drinking to excess.
In Olde England, there was the custom of the “First Footer.” He was a comely young man, with a dark complexion and dark hair. And a nice shapely foot! As I wrote in THE DARK MAN, a novella for Signet’s anthology A REGENCY CHRISTMAS lll, he comes to the door with a “…bit of coal and a silver coin in one pocket, salt and a bit of mince pie in the other. And a bottle of whiskey in his left hand.”
He stands on the threshold of the new year (and your house) steps in with his right foot, and says:
“I wish you health,
I wish you wealth,
I wish you happiness and cheer,
Good Luck in all you do,
And a Happy New Year.”
He drinks with the family and leaves by the back door, which is then locked up tight, so as not to let the luck out.
In the South of England, I heard he had to have fair skin and fair hair. In any part of England, he was well sauced by the time he staggered home at dawn.
In the south of the U. S. of A., red beans are considered the lucky New Year food. In the West, I heard it was black beans.
My mother, a New Yorker who picked up every superstition her multicultural neighbors had, made everyone in the family eat pickled herring on New Year’s Eve, which largely accounted for the dread with which my sister and brother approached each coming year. Fortunately, by some genetic stroke of luck, I LOVE pickled herring. But I can’t say it ever brought me more than a funny taste in my mouth all night… and seagull breath.
FYI, this poor seagull has french fry breath
What’s the magical good luck New Year’s tradition in your part of the world?
What food, what drink? I’ll try anything once.
And certainly – certainly if a handsome dark haired chap appears on my doorstep I’ll gladly let him in. A comely blond fellow will find glad welcome too. Or a redhead. Or a charming balding chap… (Note:Shapely feets are not a must either.)