Appalachia Holidays in Appalachia

New Year Traditions

My life in appalachia - Blind Pig & the Acorn Readers

New Year’s has its traditions and customs just like all the other holidays. A few of the most well known being the traditional kiss at midnight, the big ball drop (in my neck of the woods it’s the Possum drop) and the hard to stick to New Years Resolutions folks make.

New years eve watch service in appalachia

Churches in my part of Appalachia often ring in the New Year by praying for the coming year-it’s called a Watch Service. Growing up I thought Watch Services were to make sure the redeemed were gathered together just in case the New Year didn’t ring in after all.

The services are actually used to show thankfulness for the year that will soon be behind us-and to offer prayers for the coming year to be a blessed one. Even though I’ve heard about the services my whole life-I’ve never been to one. Pap was never interested in staying up that late at church-he figured thankfulness and prayer, while much needed, could be done just as well before bedtime.

Serenading New Years with guns and fireworks

Shooting guns and setting off fireworks as the New Year rolls in is also common practice in my neck of the woods. How many gun shots you hear-usually depends on how many young adult males live in your neighborhood.

The John C. Campbell Folk School has the odd tradition of shooting a pair of boxer shorts out of a cannon as midnight draws near-of course the cannon sounds as loud or louder than most guns.

First Footer New Years Tradition in Appalachia

A few years ago I was introduced to 2 other New Year traditions.

The first came by way of Gary Carden. It’s an old Appalachian tradition called the First Footer. If the first person to set foot in your house after the New Year arrives is a tall dark haired man-you’re sure to have good luck for the coming year.

New years eve traditions

The second came from Noble Pig-it isn’t Appalachian-but it is interesting. When midnight arrives on New Years Eve-you quickly eat a dozen grapes. Each sweet grape represents a good month in the coming year-each sour grape signals a not so good month.

A New Years day tradition throughout the south is to enjoy a meal of black eyed peas, ham hocks/jowls (or pork in another form), and greens to insure the coming year be a prosperous one. Our family has never taken part in this custom-but the other day Granny allowed we should start-cause she had figured out this is probably why we’ve always been poor.




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  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    “Growing up I thought Watch Services were to make sure the redeemed were gathered together just in case the New Year didn’t ring in after all.”
    Happy New Year ya’all!!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    We always have black-eyed peas, pork,sauerkraut and a big pan of cornbread.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    December 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Sorry, I hit the post button too quick. I wish a peaceful, prosperous 2012 to all!!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 31, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    When I was a kid we always had Blackeyed peas and hog jowl or if Mother could get away with streaked meat or fat back…she hated jowl…
    We also had some type of greens either collards, turnip greens or cabbage to represent the cash…
    The day after New Years Mom always made up something using her leftover blackeyed peas…with tomatos, onions, peppers and sweetened…sort of like Hoppin John but was never called that at our house…I always liked the next day peas better…guess it was the sugar! LOL
    I have always cooked blackeyed peas and streaked meat, (I’m not much on Jowl either, but have used it to season as well as a left over ham hock)…collard greens (usually have them growing in the garden still good and fresh) and Jalapeno Cornbread…
    I usually will save my ham bones for a big pot of pintos when that first snow and cold sets in in January…..
    Great post and comments from folks
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    December 31, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Since I am a houskeeper, I like the idea of no cleaning on New Years-lol! Of course, I’ll be working tomorrow(4(!!)houses) so that won’t work for me. We don’t keep the tradition of peas,pork & greens-the only path to prosperity that I know is to work, work, work!

  • Reply
    Rose C
    December 31, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Happy New Year to you and your family! We eat pork and some kind of cabbage dish, does it bring luck – who knows, but I not messing with a long family tradition! May 2012 fill you with many blessings.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    I tried to leave a message here earlier & had problems… prolly techy stuff. So here I am again, except this time I’ll keep it short. Love reading about all the different traditions.
    Come see mine, Portuguese traditions… and then read about some from different parts of the world. It’s a bit amusing.
    Happy New Year to you Tipper and ALL your kin!

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    December 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    love to hear of all your traditions.. they are so interesting.. the most important thing tho.. is for everyone to have a happy and healthy new year.. thank you tipper for always making us welcome.. and feeling like family.. sending love and big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Happy New Year to you Tipper and all of the Blind Pig crew and all your little “Acorns”, too!!!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I made Hoppin’ John last New Year and this year made a lighter version with ham leftover from Christmas, black eyed peas, collards etc. Here is hoping that 2012 will be a great year with prosperity, good health and laughter.
    The dogs and I aren’t looking forward to the fireworks. They spook the dogs and wake me up!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Happy and Blessed New Year to all, especially to Tipper and Family, who will surely be a bright spot in all our lives every day when we visit here virtually with the gang in Appalachia!!
    Growing up in Southern Mississippi, Watch Night Services in the Baptist church was about the only area wide tradition, except the ever present firecrackers and bottle rocket firings plus those beautiful hand held Sparklers (do they still make those?)in every neighborhood for the children.
    (They are illegal in our parish here in LA) Friends and it seems like everybody around sat down to the blackeyed peas and cabbage, but my grandmother vowed and declared that God would take care of us if we didn’t have them.
    My very favorite special treat since a youngster has been watching the Rose Parade from California every New Year’s morning. I remember the first year we had color t.v., in the 60’s, being amazed at the glorious floats coming to life with the rainbow of colors…
    In the morning, I will be parked in front of the t.v., oohing and ahhing just like I was a kid…
    Happy New Year Everyone !!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Happy New Year! We always try to eat black-eyed peas, but pass on the collard greens!

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    December 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    These New Year traditions are so very interesting. I guess you guys will attend Clay Logan’s Possum Drop this evening. He’s getting a lot of news coverage. I understand the National News will cover the Possum Drop this year. Sounds like a big time thing.
    Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 11:53 am

    you brought to mind an old custom in my childhood church, Watch Services. My parents went to this bac in the 1930’s & 40’s when I was a child. What a great memory of my parents taking us to this little counntry church.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    December 31, 2011 at 11:43 am

    We always have black-eye peas and hog jowl, rice, and cornbread, and either greens or cabbage—and Mama always said never put out a washing on New Years day-it is thought to wash away a family member’s life. Mama’s been gone awhile, but I still won’t wash clothes
    on this day.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 31, 2011 at 10:31 am

    We usually do the pork, collards and black-eyed peas for dinner on the First.
    Happy New Year to all the Blind Pig gang and all the Acorns and please be safe tonight and through 2012.

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    December 31, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I agree with Pap; thanksgiving and prayer would be just as good at 7 as it would at midnight! I have been having blackeye peas, hog jowl, and turnip greens for as long as I remember, and I see no reason to stop now. Blessed New Year to you and all your readers!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 31, 2011 at 10:13 am

    With my husband being a Baptist pastor for years, we certainly had “Watch Night Services” to see the New Year in at churches where he was pastor. Sometimes, these would be held in homes rather than at the church, especially if the church needed to “save on fuel” to heat the church building. Also, on New Year’s Day in the country where I grew up, the first visitor on New Year’s Day determined the sex of the animals born on the farm that year, according to tradition. But I doubt that old saying really held true. Otherwise, we would have had all male (or female, as the case might have been) cattle, chickens, mules and sheep–all year long. Now wouldn’t that have been something to see?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 31, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Sure glad your playlist is back to normal. It had been skipping and just stopping for me. This morning it is back the way I like it. Now I just have to skip a few Flatts and Scruggs and Old Crowes and Country Gentlemen to get to the real musicians. I like to listen to people making music just for the music not to get rich. I do enjoy Doc, Ralph and Doyle because their music fits right in with Blind Pig Gang.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    December 31, 2011 at 9:55 am

    We “always” have cabbage on New Years Day. If you really want to do it like it was done in the old days, you add a piece of silver (Mom always used a silver dime)to the bowl of cabbage. The one who gets the silver in his helping will come into riches in the New Year. We have purchased a 7 1/2 lb head of cabbage (I never seen one that big before, but ‘large’ ones were all the store had) at 12 cents a pound for dinner on New Years Day. My husband is the cabbage cooker in our house, we will have enough for an army, but his cabbage is delicious, we’ll surely be eating on it for at least a couple of days. And, Grandma always said the ‘first footer’ had to be a male or she wouldn’t let you in her house. Happy New Years everybody.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 9:50 am

    tell Granny black eyed peas, ham hocks/jowls will not bring her money, because my parents did it every single new years day and died as poor as they lived. but we never went hungry and always had a roof over our heads and clothes to wear. hope no one shoots of guns and wakes me up. here it will be firecrackers that wake me up. I have only seen the new year in 4 times in my life. i sleep it in so can’t eat the grapes or go to church.

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    December 31, 2011 at 9:42 am

    That was a very interesting post. I would really like to see the opposum drop though.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 31, 2011 at 9:38 am

    My family always did black eyed peas on new year’s day. I later added collard greens and pork. It makes a fine complete meal.
    I had a friend from Ohio whose tradition was to cook a pork roast on a big pot with sauerkraut. She boiled it all day till the pork shredded easily with a fork. She had mashed potatoes to go with it. It was quite good but I sure missed my black eyed peas that year!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I remember my grandmother putting a penny in something she was cooking on New Years Day…Surely I must be mistaken! Mom always made us get out of bed early as she believed what you did on New Years Day would be the way you would continue the rest of the year. God forbid if one was caught sleeping past daybreak!
    Wishing everyone a blessed and healthy New Year!

  • Reply
    Darlene LaRoche
    December 31, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!!!!

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    December 31, 2011 at 9:26 am

    We always did the peas and collards. Peas for coins and collards for dollars. If I had a penny for every pea I ate on a New Years I would sure be rich by now!
    Of course we never washed you would be washing someone out of your life and we never swept the house, as you would be sweeping someone out of your life in the coming year. So NO cleaning on January 1st! 🙂 another is to put some coins and a dollar or two outside your front or back door.. you have to do it the very last thing you do before going to sleep. Then the first thing you do when you wake up, is go bring your money inside. That is to ensure bringing in more money in the household in the new year. I do it every year.. I have no idea if it works or not seeing as I have no idea how much money I would have had if I hadn’t done it. But I have had my kids doing it too, each member of the household should do it. I figure you do whatever you can, haha!

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    December 31, 2011 at 9:01 am

    I was interested in the ‘possum drop’ which was also mentioned this morning by Garrison Keillor on ‘The Writers Almanac. I had never heard of that before.
    The Watch Services are held here in Missouri as well, for the same reason.
    The ‘first footer’ is an old tradition carried here by the early Scots and Irish immigrants.
    Another (here) is eating black-eyed peas, pork and greens on New Years day, to bring prosperity and good fortune through the new year.
    And one other, ‘as the year begins so will it end’, so, of course, you want to be healthy, have a full pantry, clean house and some money in your pocket to assure all those things through the year.
    When we lived in New England I was introduced to one, my French-Canadian neighbor would first open the back door just before midnight, then the front as midnight rang, so letting in the good luck and force the bad out. You had to shut the back door fast after opening the front to keep the good inside.
    Happy new year, Blind Pig! I sure enjoy your posts!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    December 31, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Very interesting customs; we have never adopted anything special other than to watch the ball drop on TV in NYC. It is fascinating to see how other countries light up many fireworks.
    May you and your family enjoy a successful, healthy, and happy 2012!

  • Reply
    Mark Selby
    December 31, 2011 at 8:33 am

    How about burning a bayberry candle on New Year’s? “A bayberry candle
    burned down to
    the socket,
    brings food to the
    larder and gold to
    the pocket.”

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 8:09 am

    I grew up going to Watch Services the preacher was a River-Brethern it is just as you said to show thankfullness for the year past and for hopes of the new year to be as good as the last one.; as time as slipped on I got away from that customs as well Pastor Marburger went home to be with the Lord–so another olde time custom is not followed— as German folks we eat pork and home-made saurekraut for the new year to bring us good luck and good forturne. Happy New Year to you and yours.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    December 31, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Tipper our neighbor started celebrating New Years early this week-shooting fireworks. I’m not look forward to tonight.
    Wishing you and your family a Wonderful New Year filled with Blessings.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 31, 2011 at 7:54 am

    We always have the ‘traditional’ Southern New Years Dinner of black eyed peas, leftover Christmas ham, greens along with a pan of cornbread. My parents always ate this New Years Day and their parents as far back as they can remember. As for the rest, we usually spend New Years Day taking down the tree and putting away the decorations for another year.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I have heard of most of the New Year’s traditions that you mentioned, but in our family, we never did anything special or ate anything out of the ordinary to ring in the New Year. Maybe we were just boring! 😀

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 7:31 am

    We have always observed the traditions of peas, collard greens, pork and whatever at New Years. It never helped our financial situation that I could tell.
    The church services I don’t remember in our area. My brother finally said that he had had enough peas, collards, and ham hocks to last him; it didn’t work!
    As for that midnight kiss, that must have been when they sent me out to get some more wood! Don’t remember that part.
    That sure was a fine looking “Smoke pole” in that picture. Must be the Deer Hunters. HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 7:25 am

    About the only new year’s tradition around here is to eat cabbage and black-eyed peas. The kids don’t much care for either so we are having chicken & dumplings.

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