Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Traditions

After doing all the Christmas traditions posts, I didn't even think about the fact that we have several New Year's traditions that also have a history. Thanks to Zach for emailing and asking me about them.

Celebrating the new year itself has always been a big part of society. Now, just to clarify that a little, there were always parties with feast, fun, and other things (you can fill in the blanks yourself), but "new years" hasn't always meant January 1. As far back as 2000-4000 B.C., the Ancient Babylonians held their new year's celebrations on the night of the first full moon in the Spring. Makes sense, Spring is a time for renewal, for planting crops, a time of rebirth after a long winter of plants dying off. However, when Julius Caesar took over Rome, he declared that the new year now began on January 1 and all celebrations ultimately shifted to that day.

Food plays a big role in many New Year's celebrations. For some areas, especially those with a lot of Dutch influence, "ringing" in the new year equates with "coming full circle" and to celebrate making it to the beginning of a new year, they eat anything circular, particularly donuts. In Asian areas, white rice is the traditional bring luck new year's meal.

For most of us, New Year's Day means a meal with black eyed peas, hog jowl and turnip greens. Legumes such as black eyed peas are seen as being lucky because they can be dried and used for food when all fresh sources are unavailable- eat black eyed peas on January 1 and not want for food for the rest of the year. The hog is a traditional sign of prosperity so when you eat hog jowl, ham or any other hog meat, you are taking some of that prosperity into yourself for the rest of the year. Turnip greens seems to be a mainly Southern tradition, but when you lump it in with cabbage (the traditional green eaten in most of the rest of the world) you get a representation of money.

My mom threw a new one in on us this year- beets for love. She said that eating the red beets represents gaining someone's heart. Now, I don't like any of the above but I'll eat the peas, the greens and bacon hoping that 2010 will be a bit more prosperous for me than 2009 was but I'm just going to have to be lonely because beets make me gag!

1 comment:

  1. Great post!

    I didn't know any of that stuff. I'm really, really ignorant because I've never heard about black eyed peas and hog jowl. We don't do that sort of thing at my house. We usually make party foods and play games.. or watch marathons. Enjoyed that information!