Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fresh starts and first footers

So today is a fresh start to a new year.  My reflections on the past year aren't really important because it's over. I accomplished some goals for myself, had many happy times, and had sad times because of the loss of friends and the failing health of my in-laws. I was dismayed by hatred, murder, bigotry and racism.  I was happy that the President was re-elected and that I was involved in doing my part to see that happen. I am glad that this first day of 2013 finds my wife sober and me working on my own recovery.  2012 was a year in the life--another one that I survived.

I don't know what is coming in the future, but do know that just for today I am not projecting about the future or living in the past. I am going to go to a party with some friends in recovery, see a movie, take down the Christmas decorations and eat some Hoppin' John and collard greens.

In the Lowcountry, eating Hoppin' John on New Year's Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck. The peas which can be black eyes or field peas are symbolic of luck. Collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, or kale along with this dish are thought to add to wealth since they are the color of money. Another traditional food, cornbread, can also be served to represent wealth, being the color of gold.  Right now, the collard greens are simmering with some ham, and the black eyes are seasoned and ready.

I also like the old traditions like First Footing. In British folk lore, the "first foot" is the first person to cross the threshold of a home on New Year's Day and is a bringer of good fortune for the coming year.  Although it is acceptable in many places for the first-footer to be a resident of the house, they must not be in the house at the stroke of midnight in order to first-foot (thus going out of the house after midnight and then coming back in to the same house is not considered to be first-footing). The first-foot is traditionally a tall, dark-haired male; a female or fair-haired male are in some places regarded as unlucky.

The first-foot usually brings several gifts, including perhaps a coin, bread, salt, coal, or a drink which respectively represent financial prosperity, food, flavor, warmth, and good cheer.  Did you have a first footer at your house?

Well, no one outside the household came in and instead of coal, a black bun and whiskey, we had Hoppin' John and collard greens with cornbread. I think that a "first footer" bringing whiskey isn't my idea of good luck. But it's an interesting old tradition nonetheless.

I hope that the tall, dark and handsome man who crosses your threshold brings suitable gifts for your luck in the New Year.  Any time is the right time to start your year.

When I was alive, I believed — as you do — that time was at least as real and solid as myself, and probably more so. I said 'one o'clock' as though I could see it, and 'Monday' as though I could find it on the map; and I let myself be hurried along from minute to minute, day to day, year to year, as though I were actually moving from one place to another. Like everyone else, I lived in a house bricked up with seconds and minutes, weekends and New Year's Days, and I never went outside until I died, because there was no other door. Now I know that I could have walked through the walls. (...) You can strike your own time, and start the count anywhere. When you understand that — then any time at all will be the right time for you. — Peter S. Beagle


  1. I am glad pancakes are golden in color...

  2. that is pretty cool on the first footer, had not heard of that...but we will def have the black eyeds and greens, my wife got them yesterday...happy new year man...

  3. Instead of corn bread, we'll be eating sourdough bread. A friend gave me a starter at Thanksgiving and I've been enjoying using it. In a way, that's nice, don't you think- making new with something living and old?
    I've never heard of the first-footer. I think if I invented a new ritual, it might be to let the chickens into the kitchen on New Years morning, just for a few moments at least, because they represent prosperity and tenacity and generosity and humor to me. And family.
    And a sort of beauty, too.
    Is that silly?
    Happy New Year, Syd. I am glad you are in the world.

  4. Happy New Year and thanks for the quote--added it to Emotional Sobriety.

  5. Greens and peas for supper tonight. I never heard of the first footer. Nice story. I'm looking forward to 2013 being a great year, but I know it's going to cost more for those of us with jobs.

  6. My son is our first footer! Cool. He always has been good luck :)

    I'm headed into the grocery store to buy Hoppin John fixings. Thanks for telling us about it.

  7. Yes, my Aunty used to keep with the First Footer tradition, always with coal . . . No tall, dark, handsome men crossing my threshold this morning, in either direction! Although Geekster's Dad brought KFC round at lunchtime for the kids.
    No New Year's resolutions here. As you say, the right time is the right time for a new start.


  8. Well, I wouldn't mind a tall, dark and handsome man coming to visit but there aren't too many of them left in my age group !!
    Ha, ha ... it's still fun to dream.
    Happy New Year to you and C. May it be a safe and productive one for us all.

  9. I love reading about other people's traditions. I live in the midwest and had never heard about eating the foods you mention on New Year's Day to bring good luck and prosperity. Many people around here celebrate by eating pork and saurkraut
    (though I don't like it.)
    I want to wish you and your wife a happy and healthy
    new year.

  10. I need to make some hoppin John at the ole homestead.
    Happy New Year!

  11. Like anonymous, I also have never heard about eating the foods that u mentioned on New Year's Day. I live in northeastern Pennsylvania and in this area it is our custom to eat pork and sauerkraut.
    Many blessings in 2013.

  12. I love that quote. So true. One of the benefits of getting older is realizing that.

  13. Love that culinary tradition, I wish I could have become a food historian. The quotation moved me --

    A happy 2013 to both of you.


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