Ways We Bring in the New Year

While 2011 was not as bad as some recent years, it is fair to say that most will happily bid it farewell hoping for a better one in its place. And to help the ‘fates’ along many will be extra vigilant in observing some traditions and superstitions.

Here in the South, the surest way to improve the year ahead is a hearty course of black-eyed peas. They have been a staple in this region for over 300 years. In the early days they provided feed for livestock (cowpeas) and food for the slaves. Peas were also used to replenish nitrogen in the soil. But the black-eyed pea would gain substantially more stature during the ‘War of Northern Aggression.’ One story of its rise from humility centers around the 40-day siege of Vicksburg. As supplies ran out in town, people suffered on the brink of starvation. Out of desperation they turned to black-eyed peas for sustenance.

Another story features the pea’s prominence as the only food crop left standing after General Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea.” Burning his way through the Southern states, Sherman destroyed all cash and food crops in his path to bring the war to a faster conclusion. Not wanting to add more misery to the plight of the slaves or the livestock, he spared their feed crops. Thus, the lowly black-eyed pea became a valuable source of nutrition during the difficult times that would follow and southerners considered themselves fortunate to have them.

Through the years the peas have come to symbolize coins for prosperity. Some add a dime to the peas for an extra boost of luck. Collard greens were added to the menu as a symbol of folding money. Toss in a little cornbread for the gold and you have the ingredients for bringin’ in a daggoned prosperous New Year! An old saying goes, “Eat peas on New Year’s Day to have plenty of everything the rest of the year.”

Food plays an important role in bringing in the New Year around the world. Cabbage is associated with wealth and prosperity. The word “cabbage” is also slang for money. In Germany, eating sauerkraut at New Year’s is considered good luck. In China, long noodles represent long life and good health. Don’t cut them, though. You need to have those noodles make it into your mouth in one piece if you want good luck. Spring rolls, too, are considered good luck.

In Italy, lentils are supposed to bring you good luck if eaten on New Year’s. In some other parts of that country, eating risotto is considered to bring good fortune. In some countries, the circle is considered a symbol of good fortune. A circle always comes back to the beginning. In Holland, they eat doughnuts to bring good luck. In Spain (and other Latin countries), good luck is sure to come when you eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31st. That tradition dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. In Germany and Austria, eating pork is good luck. According to the theory, pigs root forward, symbolizing forward movement in the New Year.

If forward movement is good, then backing up is bad. Epicurious.com reminds us that lobster is a bad food choice to start the new year because they move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.

In Greece, New Year’s Day coincides with the Festival of St. Basil, one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church. One of the traditional foods served is Vassilopitta, or St Basil’s cake. A silver or gold coin is baked inside the cake. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be especially lucky during the coming year.

Many traditions go beyond food. In Japan, according to infoplease.com The New Year is the most important holiday. It is a symbol of renewal. In December, various Bonenkai or “forget-the-year parties” are held to bid farewell to the problems and concerns of the past year and prepare for a new beginning. Misunderstandings and grudges are forgiven and houses are scrubbed. At midnight on Dec. 31st, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times, in an effort to expel 108 types of human weakness. New Year’s Day itself is a day of joy and no work is to be done. Children receive otoshidamas, small gifts with money inside. Sending New Year’s cards is a popular tradition—if postmarked by a certain date, the Japanese post office guarantees delivery of all New Year’s cards on Jan. 1st.

Hogmanay (hog-mah-NAY) Scotland, the birthplace of “Auld Lang Syne,” is also the home of Hogmanay, the rousing Scottish New Year’s celebration. One of the traditions is “first-footing.” Shortly after midnight on New Year’s eve, neighbors pay visits to each other and impart New Year’s wishes. Traditionally, First foots used to bring along a gift of coal for the fire, or shortbread. It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the New Year is rung in. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebration is the largest in the country, and consists of an all-night street party.

The most beloved song sung at the stroke of midnight is “Auld Lang Syne.” It was first published by poet Robert Burns in 1796. The name literally translates as “old long since” meaning times gone by. Should we forget old friends and times, we’ll ‘take a cup o’ kindness’ still and drink them goodwill though we be separated by time or distance.

If Robert Burns penned, it, Guy Lombardo made it famous. As noted in infoplease.com, Lombardo first heard “Auld Lang Syne” in his hometown of London, Ontario, where it was sung by Scottish immigrants. When he and his brothers formed the famous dance band, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, the song became one of their standards. Lombardo played the song at midnight at a New Year’s Eve party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929, and a tradition was born.

After that, Lombardo’s version of the song was played every New Year’s eve from the 1930s until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria. In the first years it was broadcast on radio, and then on television. The song became such a New Year’s tradition that “Life magazine wrote that if Lombardo failed to play ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ the American public would not believe that the New Year had really arrived.”

Should old acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and  auld 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 us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


The official beverage for celebrating New Year’s is of course Champagne. Ryan Newhouse tells us it was first discovered in 1531 by the Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire. The wine gets its sparking qualities by infusing sugars after primary fermentation in order to stimulate dormant yeast and create the wine’s carbonation. Forty years after its initial discovery, a monk name Dom Perignon was claimed to be the true inventor of Champagne, though that remains a myth. To be labeled Champagne, it must come from the Champagne region of France, adhere to certain aspects of viticulture and contain specific blends of grapes.

Ryan adds that “by 1850, demand for Champagne reached international markets and production grew to 20 million bottles a year. Around this time, a less-sweet Champagne was invented by Perrier-Jouët, who decided not to sweeten his 1846 vintage before transporting it to London. By 1876, Brut Champagne was created primarily for the British, who preferred the not-so-sweet version of Champagne.

If you want to get the most fizz from your ‘bubbly’ scientists say you should hold your glass at an angle rather than pouring it straight down. Livescience.com tells us that “the secret is in the bubbles, or more precisely, the dissolved carbon dioxide that creates them once the bottle is uncorked and poured into a glass. Unfortunately for champagne drinkers, much of the carbon dioxide escapes without creating bubbles. That study, published in 2010 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, showed that a beer-like pour creates less turbulence (when the drink hits the glass), and hence, allows less carbon dioxide to escape into the air.” Another study, at the expense of your tax dollars reported in the fall of 2009 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that the 10 million or so bubbles that pop from a glass of the sparkling wine carry loads of aromatic molecules that ultimately spray into the air right under your nose.

If Guy Lombardo officially kicks-off the New Year then football is officially how the day should be enjoyed, according to most American males anyway. The traditional Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902. After a brief interruption with some Roman chariot races, the game returned in 1916 to remain the sports centerpiece of the festival.

But for all of our celebrations and superstitions, we all sense a yearning to refocus our energies and our talents on the opportunities the year ahead promises. We consider the day, perhaps more than any other, a day for looking ahead at what might be, for considering dreams and goals.

Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, has found that people who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as people who don’t, and yet 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals. Sixteen percent do have goals, but they don’t write them down. Less than four percent write down their goals, and fewer than one percent actually review them regularly. We couldn’t agree more with Dr. Kohl. In fact our business is devoted to helping the 1% turn their dreams into goals, and goals confidently into reality.

No matter how you celebrate your New Year, we wish you a safe and happy one. When we next meet, we look forward to hearing what is it you can’t wait to do?

Happy New Year!

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