I’ve always sort of wanted to be in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. And then again….eeeks! Sooooo many people…cringe…the thought of it almost makes me, ummm, well, I guess the word I’m looking for is: closterphobic? Perhaps it is better just to watch it on TV? Regardless, what New Year’s celebration would be complete without a champagne flute of some bubbly, a clock to count down the hours and minutes to midnight, some sort of fireworks and confetti, a kiss with our sweetheart, and singing Auld Lang Syne together with everyone in our time zone? It’s an American Tradition! Or is it? Where did all this tradition come from?
“NEW YEARS ROCKIN’ EVE”
Did you know that American Band Stand host, Dick Clark began New Years Rockin’ Eve in 1973/74 on NBC as an alternative to Guy Lombardo’s popular and long-running New Year’s Eve big band broadcasts on CBS. The first two editions were hosted by Three Dog Night and George Carlin, respectively, and featured Dick Clark as the Times Square reporter. In 1974/75, the program moved to ABC, where Clark assumed the role of host, and the show has lived on even after his death in 2012, to be now hosted by Ryan Seacrest.
“IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BALL”
Did you know the Times Square Ball is located on the roof of One Times Square? The ball is a prominent part of the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, colloquially known as the “ball drop,” where the “time ball” descends 141 feet in 60 seconds down a specially designed flagpole, beginning at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, and resting at midnight to signal the start of the new year?
The event was first organized by Adolph Ochs, owner of The New York Times newspaper, as a successor to a series of New Year’s Eve fireworks displays he held at the building to promote its status as the new headquarters of the Times, while the ball itself was designed by Artkraft Strauss. First held on December 31, 1907, to welcome 1908, the ball drop has been held annually since, except in 1942/43 in observance of wartime blackouts.
The ball’s design has also been updated over the years to reflect improvements in lighting technology; the original design was made from wood and iron and lit with 100 incandescent light bulbs, while its current incarnation features a computerized LED lighting system and an outer surface consisting of triangle-shaped crystal panels. Since 2009, the current ball has been displayed atop the building year-round, while the original, smaller version of the current ball that was used in 2008 is on display at Times Square’s visitor center.
The event is organized by the Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment, a company led by Jeff Strauss, and is among the most notable New Year’s celebrations internationally: it is attended by at least 1 million spectators yearly, and is nationally televised as part of New Year’s Eve specials broadcast by a number of networks and cable channels. The prevalence of the Times Square ball drop has inspired similar “drops” at other local New Year’s Eve events across the country. (This info found at Wikipedia)
“AULD LANG SYNE”
Did you know that when we sing,“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind…” that we sing an old Scots poem, popularly believed written by Robert Burns in 1788, and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294) possibly that Burns simply dictated and added a few verses to an old song from the fragments of another old man’s memory?
Auld Lang Syne basically means “old times gone,” according to Gurmeet Mattu.
And there’s a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o thine
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang sine.
Which, in modern English translates to:
And there’s a hand my trusty friend,
And give me a hand of yours,
And we will take a right good drink,
For old times gone.
Burns is said to have captured the essence of emotion, whether it was the friendship of two people or the brotherhood of an entire race. As we link arms, or hold hands on New Year’s Day and sing Auld Lang Syne, let us remember that we are wishing a good new year to our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, the people of our town, our countrymen, and ultimately the whole world!
MORE SCOTS TRADITION
In researching the origins of the famously sung song I stumbled upon another curious New Year’s tradition of the Scots. In Scotland, December 31st is Hogmanay and commemorates the passing of the shortest day of the year. Aside from the pagan roots of this festival it is a celebration of new life. This renewal of life is required to be celebrated properly, to insure a good and prosperous new year. It begins with Scots housewives thoroughly cleaning their homes on Hogmanay, including taking out the ashes from the fire. This cleared out the old year and prepared for a fresh new start.
On Hogmanay the Scots welcomed friends and strangers into their homes, offering them hospitality, including a kiss to wish them a Guid New Year. These visitations included what they called the ‘first foot.’ If the first foot to enter your home on that first day of the New Year was a tall, dark, male, you could expect to have good luck that year. A blonde man entering your home however was a sign for trouble. A throwback, no doubt, to the Viking days when blonde strangers arriving at your door invariably meant danger. If you were that tall, dark, Scotsman, out and about to visit your neighbors and friends as their “first foot” you were expected to bring symbolic gifts of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun, and whisky.
There are a whole lot more curious facts about “First Footings” at SNOPES.com and you would be amused to go and read about them.
FOOD FOR LUCK!
In the south it is a tradition to eat Black-eyed Peas (with greens, and cornbread) as the first meal of the New Year to bring good luck and prosperity upon the year. But why black-eyed peas?
Most Southerners will tell you that it dates back to the Civil War. Black-eyed peas (like purple hull peas) were considered animal food. The peas were not worthy of General Sherman’s Union troops. When Union soldiers raided the Confederates food supplies, legend says they took everything except the peas and salted pork. The Confederates considered themselves lucky to be left with those meager supplies, and survived the winter. Peas became symbolic of luck.
Black-eyed peas were also given to slaves, as were most other traditional New Year’s foods. Let’s face it: a lot of the stuff we eat on New Year’s is soul food. One explanation of the superstition says that black-eyed peas were all the southern slaves had to celebrate with on the first day of January, 1863. What were they celebrating? That was the day when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. From then on, peas were always eaten on the first day of January.
Others say that since the south has generally always been the place for farming, black-eyed peas are just a good thing to celebrate with in the winter. Not many crops grow this time of the year, but black-eyed peas hold up well, were cheap, and just make good sense.
The oldest explanation for this tradition is found is on Wikipedia: the tradition dates as far back as ancient Egypt. During the time of the Pharaohs, it was believed that eating a meager food like black-eyed peas showed humility before the gods, and such a humble one would be blessed. According to Wikipedia, the Babylonian Talmud, which dates to 339 CE, instructs the faithful Jews to eat black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana. The belief was similar: those who ate black-eyes showed their humility and saved themselves from the wrath of God. (about.com)
Whatever the reason, I love black-eyed peas!!! So for me New Year’s is the perfect excuse to break out some Cowboy Caviar or a smoldering pot of Hopping John!
And now that I know about Hogmanay, that tall, dark, and handsome man of mine is going to have to stay up on New Year’s Eve and be my “First Footing” before our blonde son-in-law of Norwegian ancestry spoils the whole deal. (Sorry, sweetheart. It’s nothing personal. You can still come, but please let the old man walk through the door first, and then we’ll gladly accept your gifts of whiskey and shortbread).
As a girl of Scottish blood, my ancestors must probably be rolling over in their graves to see that our daughter brought home a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Viking husband, although if they knew him they would all love the boy – even if he does own a Viking sword and has the strength of Conan the Barbarian to wield it! He is a gentle giant, a protector, and not at all a raping, pillaging conquerer, but in all fairness, I haven’t seen him mad yet!
Yet another traditional aspect of this holiday is resolutions. Do you make resolutions? I usually resolve to be more diligent to spend time in God’s word and prayer. I resolve to be nicer to my family, and more thoughtful with my friends. But making resolutions…are they a set up for failure? I think it is good to have goals. If we reach them hooray…if not, well, we have something to strive for next year.
I always thought it would be a neat tradition to collect things from throughout the previous year, little trinkets (a gas receipt, a grocery store receipt, a photo of our family, something representative of the hobbies and activities we were involved in over the year, plane tickets, restaurant receipts, and items that would tell the story of our lives that year), then put them all in a time capsule and bury it in the back yard. How fun to find it (or one that someone else has buried) years and years and years from now.
Our first year in south Texas we found the weather phenomenal for shooting off fireworks at midnight in our back yard. One year we got to have my mom and sister and her family join us in our Texas tradition…
In my devotional SAVOR by Shauna Niequist, (which I am sadly coming to the end of) on page 378, she explains something she learned as a student of Irish literature in college. It was the Celtic idea of “thin places.” She explains that these thin places are places where “the boundary between the natural world and the supernatural one is more permeable – thinner, if you will.” I’m pretty sure I have experienced many “thin places” in my life. The first sunset that I saw after giving my life to Jesus…gazing over the vast Grand Canyon as an adult…coming around the bend and out from the tall pines to be smacked in the face with the Grand Tetons…seeing my very first granddaughter born and watching her look up at each of us…and while sitting in my south Texas back yard for the first time, at night, waiting for my son-in-law to launch the first New Years fireworks. We were all sitting under a massive live oak tree and on the other side of the limbs and leaves was a big black sky glittering with stars. It was as if God put lights in my trees, as if He did it just for me, just to let me know He was mindful of me, and showering me with His sweetest blessings.
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Thank you God for each New Year, and for all the bumps in the road You’ve brought us over. Oh how my heart wants to shout out in a loud voice how magnificent You are and how wondrous Your mighty grace and mercy towards us. You are our new life and our new beginning, and our tall, dark, and handsome gift-bearer – the fairest of ten thousand. At Your coming every eye will see, every tongue confess, and every knee shall bow. May the humble meals we share together on earth be always a reminder of the magnificent feast we shall share with You in heaven. With gratitude we ask your blessing on our New Year. IJN Amen
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Whatever you have planned for your Count-Down-Party: a houseful of friends, champagne and small bites, watching the ball drop together and singing Auld Lang Syne arm-in-arm as the clock strikes midnight, sharing a kiss and shooting off fireworks, and welcoming your first foot to the goodluck meal you’ve made on New Year’s Day, I pray for you that God will bring you through every hardship, lead you to the thin places where you see Him and gain strength for this earthly journey, and that your new year is drenched in His love and blessing.
~ Recipes ~
Mrs H’s COWBOY CAVIAR
1 14-oz. can black eyed peas – drained
1 14-oz. can white corn – drained
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 avocados – cubed
4 tomatoes – diced (prefer sweet cherry tomatoes – about 2 cups of chopped)
1 clove garlic – minced
1 to 2 fresh Jalapeños– diced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. Cumin
¾ tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Pepper
1/8 tsp. Cayenne powder (or Tabasco sauce)
Cilantro, chopped (optional)
Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and allow flavors to meld for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Serve as a dip with tortilla chips.
BLACK EYED PEAS – HOPPIN’ JOHN
3 Ham Hocks
1 48-oz. Box chicken broth
1 (16-oz) package dry black-eye peas
1 lb hardwood smoked bacon, thick sliced, cooked crispy
Several slices of smoked ham, chopped roughly
1 cup chopped onion
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
2 large jalapenos, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 serrano chili, seeds removed, diced
3 Bay Leaves
1 14.5-oz can Fire roasted Tomatoes
Hot pepper sauce
1 package ready to eat Kale, torn into bite size pieces
I put a large box of chicken broth, plus about 4 cups of water in a large pot on the stove and add my ham hocks to it, bring it to a boil, and let it stew for a couple hours to bring as much flavor out of the ham hocks as possible before making my Black-eyed peas.
Fill a large sauce pot about half full of water and bring to a boil. Rinse and sort black-eyed peas and add to the water. Bring to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse, and then add to the pot with the ham hocks. Keep the liquid boiling gently. Add onion, celery, jalapenos, serrano, and red pepper, Bay leaves, and ham. Cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours. Add water if necessary to keep it soupy. Season to taste with salt, pepper, hot pepper sauce or cayenne powder.
In a large skillet fry bacon until crispy. Add the bacon to the peas while they are cooking. Once the peas are soft and about to be served, remove the ham hocks and bay leaves, and add tomatoes and kale. Let simmer until kale is wilted. Serve with cornbread.
MRS H’s GREENS
1 lb hardwood smoked bacon, thick sliced
1 small onion sliced into thin slivers
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch Kale
1 bunch collard greens (or other favorite greens)
1 bunch turnip greens (or other favorite greens)
3 Tablespoons honey
Hot pepper sauce (chili peppers in vinegar) for a condiment
In large skillet fry bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from drippings, break up and set aside. Add onion and garlic and sauté for a couple minutes. Add kale, collards, and turnip greens. Toss in hot bacon drippings until all the greens are wilted. Turn heat down to low. Drizzle greens with honey, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Toss with bacon crumbles and serve with *hot pepper sauce.
*I am fortunate to live where chili pequin peppers grow wild. I have several bushes of them in my yard. About mid to late summer they start putting on little green chili peppers that are about the size of a small English pea. They are on a heat scale par with a habenaro. By Christmastime my bushes are loaded with ripe chilies and before a frost comes along to kill them I get out and pick them all. I dry most of them and then grind them into powder. Some of them I use to make hot pepper sauce. To make it I first wash my little chilies and then pack them whole into pint sized mason jars that have been washed and placed in boiling water on the stove. I pack the jars about half full of the chilies. I heat some white vinegar in a sauce pot (enough to fill however many jars of chilies I have) until the vinegar just comes to a boil, then I pour the boiling vinegar over the chilies until the jars are full. I then cap the jars with sterilized lids and let them cool, and then place them in the refrigerator. Whenver I make greens, this is the “hot pepper sauce” I use to season them with. It is delicious.
Corn Bread (to be honest, I usually use a boxed mix. I love the honey cornbread and often add to it a (12-oz) can of creamed corn, about ½ cup shredded Jalapeno Pepper-Jack cheese, and a chopped jalapeno (no seeds) to the batter, along with an extra egg, and sometimes a handful of chopped green onion. Because of the added ingredients I cut the liquid (usually milk) back by about a 1/4 cup, and bake as directed). I love hot fresh cornbread slathered in butter.
Happy New Year, y’all! ❤
Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. Nehemiah 8:10 & 12