Posted tagged ‘new years day’

Blog Post 192 – Eating Your Luck

January 9, 2015

 

Salting down pork, Calvert County, Maryland. From Library of Congress.

Since we just passed that high holy day of good fortune, January 1st, luck has been on my mind. We’ve certainly discussed a lot of tradiitons associated with the New Year and good luck before, so this isn’t going to be a particularly in-depth post, but I had the tickling little idea in my head that it might be interesting to round up a number of the different ways in which people “eat their luck,” especially in conjuction with New Year’s Day (be it the January date or an alternative annual commemoration, such as Chinese New Year). I, of course, eat my black-eyed peas every year for good fortune and health in the coming twelvemonth, but since I’ve covered that before, I’ll skip it here and instead start with some of the other staples from the table of Fortuna.

Cakes

I’ve covered cakes more generally in a separate post, but I wanted to mention here the typical Epiphany treat for Mexican and Mexican American families, the rosca de los reyes (or Kings’ Bread, after the three wisemen/kings who visited Jesus on Epiphany according to some Christian lore). The cake would include a number of fruits, nuts, and spices, all of which had connotations of prosperity. According to the book Mexican-American Folklore, “The bread is formed into a ring resembling a crown, and baked into it are a tiny doll representing the Baby Jesus, along with whole almonds and coins…Anyone who weats a piece of the bread with a coin or almond in it is assured of good luck for the coming year; the finder of the Baby Jesus is expected to give a party for the group on the Feast of Candelaria, February 2nd” (p.219).

Cakes also show up in some Gypsy/Romany lore, with a bit more of an emphasis on luck in love. According to A Romany Tapestry, by Michael Hoadley, Gypsy girls would indicate their approval of a potential love-match by tossing him a cake with a coin inside over a hedge (p. 33).

Pork & Cabbage

When I moved to Pennsylvania this past year, I knew I was entering the heart of a highly folk-oriented culture, and during the holiday season a number of folk traditions became near and dear to me. One new tradition we incorporated into our New Year’s festivities was the eating of pork and sauerkraut (athough we actually did roasted cabbage lightly treated with lemon juice, so it wasn’t completely traditional). The lore surrounding the consumption of these dishes on New Year’s in Pennsylvania Dutch culture ties to the need for forward momentum and prosperity in the coming year. According to the American Folklife Center, “Some traditional foods include pork, because the hog roots forward, symbolic of progress (chicken or other fowl is avoided because it scratches backwards).” Don Yoder, the dean of PA-German folklore, devotes an entire chapter to the subject in his book, Discovering American Folklife.

The tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut (or some other variant cabbage dish) has imbued New Year’s with a connection to pigs beyond the handed-down menus of ethnic groups. Jack Santino, in his classic holiday survey All Around the Year, mentions a fabricated event called the Hungry Hog Society dinner, which features a “hog cake” designed to fill and warm those who eat it, and leave them feeling fat and happy as hogs. The holiday, which was developed by the Blaho family of Ohio, now also include pig-shaped cookies and other pig memorabilia as well (p. 27-29). Cabbage can also be substituted for collard greens (at least as far as symbolism goes), in Appalachian areas.

Beans

We know about black-eyed peas (I think, anyway; I’m fairly sure we covered it in our episode on New Year’s traditions). The culinary site Epicurious also notes that other beans and legumes carry a fair load of luck for those who consume them on New Year’s Day. “Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seedlike appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, it’s customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight.” Pork shows up again, of course. The site also lists rice as a popular accompaniment to the protein-laden lucky dishes as they have a similar symbolic association with money and abundance (hence the “lucky green rice” sometimes found in curio shops).

Noodles

In Chinese cooking traditions, as well as some other Asian ones, the use of noodles provides an extra boost of luck and longevity to those who consume them. Frequently noodles are served for birthdays, anniversaries, or other festivals marking passages of time. According an article on the Washington Post website, “noodle dishes are a staple for birthdays and Chinese New Year because they signify a long life for whoever is eating them — as long as the noodles are not cut short. The longer they are, the better.” Chinese lore also ascribes longevity to other foods, such as peaches (I won’t be making any dishes that combine noodles and peaches anytime soon, though, if you’re wondering).

There are plenty of other interesting beliefs about food and luck which are not as widely distributed as the ones noted above. A small potpourri of interesting culinary superstitions includes:

  • It is bad luck to eat peanuts in the dressing rooms of theaters. (Lynell Burns from Muriel Hite) (“Beliefs of New Mexico,” James Penrod, 182).
  • At automobile races it is unlucky to eat peanuts in the pits. (Florine Hop- kins from Monty Owens) (“Beliefs of New Mexico,” James Penrod, 183)
  • Some believe that the luckiest food on New Year’s is whatever you have on hand, so long as your pantry is fully stocked. An English proverb states “Empty pokets or an empty cupboard portend a year of poverty” (The Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions, by Opie & Tatem, p. 295).
  • According to an article in the 2009-2010 Witches’ Almanac, when you make hot chocolate you should whisk it until it’s nice and foamy, then sever, because “Montezuma belived the foam contained the spirit of a god” (p. 42).

These are hardly extensive or even cursory examinations of the many, many foodways associated with luck and good fortune. Do you have food traditions related to luck in your family? If so, I’d be very interested to hear them!

Thanks for reading,

-Cory

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Quick Update – A New Year, A(nother) New Giveaway!

January 1, 2014

Divination Prize Pack

There’s a bit of folk superstition about New Year’s Day that says whatever you want to be doing for the next twelve months, make sure you’re doing it on January 1st. You’re also not supposed to start anything you can’t finish, which brings me to this quick-n-dirty little blog post. I intend (dare I say hope?) that I will be doing a tremendous amount of writing over the coming year, including finishing several writing projects I’ve been working on for a while, so I wanted to make sure I wrote something for New World Witchery before midnight tonight. But I also have been using the day to accomplish a dozen other New Year’s magical traditions (cleaning, black-eyed peas, collard greens, etc.) so I thought a short and simple giveaway post might just kill the proverbial twin birds.

For this giveaway, we’ll be handing out a doozy of a divination prize pack. It includes:

  • A copy of my cartomancy book, Fifty-four Devils
  • A mini-altar kit and pair of mini-dowsing rods from Franchesca at The Texan Heretics
  • A bottle of Psychic Boost Oil from the lovely Magnusons of Candlesmoke Chapel
  • A stunning javamancy board from Chas Bogan of Carnivalia
  • A five-card email card reading from me, complete with card report

Pretty stellar, huh?

So what do you have to do to get an entry into this contest? It’s incredibly simple! Just answer one or more of the following questions:

  1. What are your magical/witchy/Pagan New Year’s resolutions? What magical projects do you hope to get off the ground? Are there areas you want to learn more about? Are you going to get more involved in the community? Just give us a brief snapshot of what you hope to accomplish from a magical standpoint in the coming year.
  2. What is your favorite magical/witchy/Pagan holiday and why? What do you do for it? Has it always been your favorite? What will you be doing to make it special this year?
  3. What (if any) practices, spells, etc. has New World Witchery been able to add to your cauldron? Are there specific regions of folk magic you’ve begun to explore more (like Conjure or Powwow)? Do you find the info here useful on a practical level or is it more of a general information site for you?

That’s it! All you have to do is write to us at compassandkey@gmail.com and answer a question or two or three. You get one entry per question answered, so you have a chance to get up to three entries just by writing to us (you can combine all answers into a single email, as long as you make it clear you’re answering multiple questions somehow). Make sure to use the subject line “Three Questions Contest” so I know what you’re writing us about.

The deadline for this contest will be Friday, January 31st, so get your answers to us by then!

Also, please check out and/or enter our other current contest for one of three NOLA swag bags, which will be ending January 17th!

Thanks everyone for a great 2013, and here’s looking forward to a very enchanted new year!

-Cory

Podcast 23 – The New Year, Anniversaries, & Birthdays

January 28, 2011

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 23-

Summary

We’re back! We tell you what’s been keeping us busy and talk a little about our upcoming plans.  Then we get into our main topic: annual celebrations, including New Year’s, Anniversaries, and Birthdays.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 23
-Sources-
Witches All – Elizabeth Pepper, ed.

American Folklore: An Encyclopedia – J. H. Brunvand, ed.
Ozark Magic & Folklore – Vance Randolph
The Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells – Judika Illes
Birthstones” article on Wikipedia
Also: Open Call for Submissions from Misanthrope Press!

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.

Promo 1 – Druidcast
Promo 2 – Inciting a Brewhaha
Promo 3 – Pagan Homesteader

 

Blog Post 112 – 5…4…3…2… (New Year’s Traditions)

December 29, 2010

With one set of holidays just behind us, we still have a little more celebration left before the deep, dark, quiet winter sets in.  Today, I’ll be sharing some of the New Year’s traditions from North America (and to some extent, from around the world).  New Year’s has a lot of obvious components: a sense of rebirth, optimism, setting goals for improvement, and even a little romance.  Let’s look at some of the big traditions associated with this glittering and festive affair.

1)      Fireworks – These are a common component of New Year’s festivals worldwide, including the Chinese New Year which occurs later in the winter.  Aside from being a celebratory demonstration of light and wonder, the noise and fire from these explosives may serve to frighten away any lingering demons or bad spirits.  And, of course, they help keep everyone awake until the crucial midnight hour.  This also ties into other noise-making activities on New Year’s Eve, such as singing, banging cymbals, and other loud demonstrations of the party spirit.

In the Appalachians, this sometimes mixed with the mumming traditions of the Christmas season and became something known as a Shanghai Parade.  Gerald Milnes describes the practice in his book, Signs, Cures, & Witchery:

“The shanghai tradition once included music played on violins, flutes, horns, and drums in the Valley [of Greenbriar Co., West Virginia].  There is even a fiddle tune called ‘Shanghai’ that is known in West Virginia and may be connected to the shanghai ritual…people also cross-dress and put on exotic, mostly homemade costumes.  Reversal is a theme, and they generally whoop it up in the spirit of old midwinger revelry” (p. 192)

Jack Santino also describes similar uses of noise-makers, including guns, in his All Around the Year:  “In Hawaii, the custom involves the traditional beliefs of the native Hawaiians, who say that the fireworks scare off demons.  In Ohio, they are used as noisemakers, often instead of a gun, since ‘shooting in the New Year’ is the tradition” (p. 13).

2)      Kissing at Midnight – This tradition is related to others more regionally or culturally specific (such as “First Footing,” discussed below), but has become a broader practice among Occidental celebrants of the New Year.  The Snopes.com page on New Year’s superstitions has this to say on the subject:

“We kiss those dearest to us at midnight not only to share a moment of celebration with our favorite people, but also to ensure those affections and ties will continue throughout the next twelve months. To fail to smooch our significant others at the stroke of twelve would be to set the stage for a year of coldness.”

The idea of setting the stage for the coming year based on what one does on New Year’s Day ties into a lot of the other superstitions and customs related to this holiday.  With kissing, the idea seems to be that if you start the New Year off with someone you love, or at least by kissing someone attractive, you will invite positive romance into your life over the coming year.

3)       First Footing – To those of Scottish extraction, this is probably a very familiar practice.  The Scottish New Year is called Hogmany, and involves several key rituals, including house-cleaning, preparing traditional meals (see “New Year’s Food” below), and First Footing.  Sarah at Forest Grove has written an excellent entry on the Hogmany traditions, and describes First Footing thusly:

“First footing is a divinatory folk tradition where the first person who sets foot in your house in the wee hours of the New Year determines the luck and happenings of the year ahead. A man is preferred over a woman, and a man of dark hair and eye over a man of light hair and blue or green eyes. Redheads are especially unlucky to be the first to set foot across your threshold in some areas of Scotland.”

In some cases this practice requires that the first-footer be not of the household.  We received several pieces of lore in our Winter Lore Contest related to the New Year, including a bit about First Footing from listener/reader Akia: “Some of her [grandmother’s} holiday superstitions included: not letting anyone out of the house or enter until an unrelated male came into the house on New Years Day.”

4)      New Year’s Food – There are a lot of traditions about just what to eat on New Year’s Day.  Some of the most common components of a New Year’s meal are:

      • Black-Eyed Peas
      • Cabbage
      • Collard Greens
      • Ham or Pork
      • Lentils
      • Whiskey (or good, strong booze in general)
      • Potato Pancakes

Most of the foods associated with the New Year are related to prosperity and wealth in some way.  For instance, lentils and potato pancakes are shaped like coins.  Black-eyed peas have fertility and abundance going for them.  Cabbage and collards look like wads of bills waiting to be spent, etc.  Some folks recommend the addition of non-edible components to the meal, such as coins for prosperity.  Patrick W. Gainer says, “It will bring good luck if on New year’s Day you cook cabbage and black-eyed peas together and put a dime in them” (p.123).   Listener and podcaster Aria Nightengale shared her New Year’s food lore during our recent contest, saying, “[W]e always eat pork and cabbage on new year’s day.  According to my Momaw, we eat pork because pigs eat moving forward not backwards, so pork will help you move forward through the new year.  I don’t know the specific purpose of the cabbage…but Momaw cooks it with a silver dollar in it for prosperity.”

There’s a distinctly Southern dish called Hoppin’ John made from black-eyed peas, onions, and ham which can usually be found simmering away on most stovetops during the New Year.  It’s so important to our traditions that many restaurants also offer some version of it on New Year’s Day.  My wife and I have a tradition of going to one specific restaurant every year where we can get good potato pancakes and hoppin’ john to help bring in the New Year with a couple of our friends.  It makes for a nice way to spend the day, and ensures that we get our black-eyed pea requirement taken care of.

There are still many more traditions we could discuss (and I hope to!), such as cleaning practices, taboos, whether or not to give gifts, etc.  But for now, I hope this has been a nice introduction to the wonderfully lore-rich practices of New Year’s celebration.  Here’s wishing you a great day, and a great ending to the year!

All the best, and thanks for reading,

-Cory


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