What are your New Year’s su­per­sti­tions?

Antelope Valley Press - - Valley Life - BY LAURA M. HOLSON

Kiss your lover at mid­night. Fling open all your win­dows and doors. But what­ever you do to cel­e­brate the ar­rival of 2020, don’t eat lob­ster.

These are some of the su­per­sti­tions and tra­di­tions that, ac­cord­ing to some cul­tures, will help you avoid set­backs and bar­rel into the new year with good for­tune and cheer.

There’s a solid chance you grew up in Penn­syl­va­nia if you eat pork and sauer­kraut on New Year’s Day; Dutch and Ger­man set­tlers there have been serv­ing it up since the 1800s. In Den­mark, dishes are thrown at a neigh­bor’s door as a sign of friend­ship. (That’s one way to get rid of chipped plates.)

And what about that mid­night kiss? Ac­cord­ing to Pete Geiger, the ed­i­tor of the Farmer’s Almanac,a per­son who kisses their beloved at the stroke of mid­night will have 12 months of con­tin­ued af­fec­tion. Pity the per­son who doesn’t — their love will be de­nied. “For peo­ple who are su­per­sti­tious, that first kiss ac­tu­ally means some­thing,” he said.

New Year’s tra­di­tions have for cen­turies been rooted in the cul­tures of the com­mu­ni­ties that ob­serve them. South­ern cooks, for ex­am­ple, of­ten serve a pot of Hop­pin’ John, a mélange of black-eyed peas, rice, spices and smoked pork, for good luck and for­tune. En­slaved peo­ple from West Africa brought black-eyed peas to the Caroli­nas and grew them in their gar­dens.

Even­tu­ally, these recipes made their way to slave own­ers’ ta­bles. The 1824 edi­tion of “The Vir­ginia

House­wife,” for ex­am­ple, in­cluded a hearty recipe for black-eyed pea cakes served with bits of fried ba­con.

“Some white South­ern­ers claim that black­eyed peas saved fam­i­lies from star­va­tion dur­ing the Union Army’s siege of Vicks­burg in the Civil War,” read a 2010 Op-Ed ar­ti­cle in The New York Times. “‘The En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Jewish Food’ sug­gests that it may come from Sephardic Jews, who in­cluded the peas in their Rosh Hashana menu as a sym­bol of fer­til­ity and pros­per­ity.”

It’s not just tra­di­tional dishes that en­dure. Many cul­tures ob­serve “first foot­ing,” a su­per­sti­tion un­der which the first per­son to en­ter a home por­tends what kind of for­tune those who live there will have for the rest of the year. In some cases, the per­son car­ries money to en­sure pros­per­ity. In oth­ers, they leave by a dif­fer­ent door.

In Scot­land, which was in­vaded by Scan­di­na­vian Vik­ings more than 1,000 years ago, a dark-haired man car­ry­ing a piece of coal, a coin or some whiskey would tra­di­tion­ally be wel­comed. Many Scots also light bon­fires in ob­ser­vance of Hog­manay, the last day of the year.

In Stone­haven, a city in north­east­ern Scot­land, res­i­dents pa­rade down the main street swing­ing flam­ing balls of fire to ward off evil. The fes­tiv­i­ties are streamed live on a we­b­cam, and a lo­cal brew­ery makes a Fire­balls beer.

“Peo­ple were afraid of de­mons and bad spir­its and would do any­thing to make sure things did not hurt them,” Geiger said. “These tra­di­tions are handed down so peo­ple feel safe.”

In­deed, while many tra­di­tions are rooted in his­tory, some find in­spi­ra­tion in the di­vine. In Sweden, folk­lore en­thu­si­asts take a “year walk,” or ar­s­gang, in which they wan­der through a for­est to a church or a grave­yard on New Year’s Eve and en­counter dark, myth­i­cal crea­tures. These omens were meant to en­lighten the soli­tary walker about mar­riage, con­flict or death.

The rit­ual, which in­cluded vis­it­ing fresh graves, was doc­u­mented as far back as the 1600s, ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in At­las Ob­scura. “This let the walker tap into the prophetic power of the sea­son,” the ar­ti­cle said. “But it also meant open­ing one­self up to fright­en­ing en­coun­ters.”

Many new year tra­di­tions fo­cus on pre­par­ing the home — and by ex­ten­sion, the mind — for bet­ter days ahead. Some peo­ple open all the doors and win­dows in their houses at mid­night to usher out the old year and in­vite in the new. “It makes sense,” Geiger said. “It starts a new se­quence. You start the year on a pos­i­tive note. It’s sym­bolic as much as any­thing.”

For his part, Geiger, who lives in Lewis­ton, Maine, heads to a cot­tage on a nearby lake ev­ery year, gath­er­ing with friends for a spec­tac­u­lar din­ner. “It’s the best meal I eat all year,” he said. Does the ban­quet por­tend a boun­ti­ful year to come, per­haps? Or good for­tune in the new year?

“No,” he said with a laugh. “My friend is just a re­ally good cook.”

Brit­tainy New­man/The New York Times

Revel­ers be­gin to fill Times Square in Man­hat­tan on New Year’s Eve.

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