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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rites of the New Year

Watch Night (December 31st)-Primarily observed in African American Churches, this day is set aside for song and prayer in praise of God and in thanksgiving for one's blessings and asking for the continuation of those blessings in the coming year. The origin of this practice cannot be clearly traced, however, some have theorized that Watch Night began with what was originally called "Freedom's Eve", the night before January 1st, 1863- the date on which the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect.

Folk Traditions: All over the world, people light fireworks at midnight on New Year's Eve/Day in celebration of the New Year, as well as to frighten away evil spirits. In China and parts of the American South, many people sweep out their homes on New Year's Eve day, sweeping out their ill-luck; shortly before midnight, they open their front door's to welcome the New Year. In Turkey, women wear red underwear at midnight to draw love to them in the coming year. In Germany, families melt lead and pour it into water in order to divine their fortunes in the coming year. In Spain, believers eat 12 grapes at midnight to ensure 12 lucky months in the New Year. In Scotland, it is believed that the first person to visit you on New Year's day can bring either good luck or bad, a practice called first footing. The ideal visitor was said to be tall, dark haired, man! Among the Dutch, it is said that if you eat doughnuts on New Year's day that it will bring luck, because they are round and symbolic of coming full circle.

New Year's Day Prosperity Ritual- All over the South people eat a meal of collard greens, cornbread, and black-eyed peas to ensure their prosperity and protection in the coming year. Symbolically, the greens are said to represent green 'paper money'; the corn, being yellow, represents gold or coins; and the black-eyed peas, each possessing an eye, is said to protect you from negativity and bad luck (especially in the form of the evil eye).

Interestingly, a silver dime is often placed in the black-eyed peas, and the person who by chance is served the dime is said to be especially lucky that year, and he or she will keep the dime as a lucky token throughout the year.

On a personal note, growing up in the South our grandmother's often told us that 'what you do on New Year's Day, you'll be doing all year,' therefore we were never to wash clothes, do housework, etc...

Carolina Dean


Miss Oya said...

Happy New Years Carolina Dean! Hope you beat your goal for writing this year. Interesting read on the different traditions around the world for New Years. That is funny what you said about your grandmother, mine too use to say 'how you sit on New Year's day is how you will sit the rest of the year.' So I made a mental goal list of what to do, got up early and will spend the day doing just that. Writing, conjuring and doing stuff to bring business success my way. Hope your day and year are prosperous! Blessings

Carolina Dean said...

Happy New Year.

Yes I wrote two more post this year than I did last year. I actually wrote a lot more than that but those articles will be appearing in upcoming issues of HCQ and the Hoodoo Almanac!