Appalachia Holidays in Appalachia

The New Year’s Shoot

New years eve shoot in appalachia

The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore

The New Year’s Shoot

Collected from Mr. A. Sidney Beam, of Cherryville, in January, 1948, by Professor Arthur Palmer Hudson. The custom of welcoming in the New Year with gunfire appears to have been carried into North Carolina by German speaking immigrants, whose descendants perpetuate it to this day, at least in Gaston county. The first written record of the North Carolina “Shoot” bears the date of 1774, but the custom may have been observed there even earlier. Mr. Beam states that he as been saying the “New Year’s Speech” for 59 years, and believes the custom to be well over 150 years old. The shooting begins promptly at midnight of New Year’s Eve and continues until sunrise the following morning. The celebrants make a tour of the homes in the vicinity, stopping at each to discharge their pieces after the recital of the following chant. What ever its original purpose (to drive away evil spirits, to promote¬†fertility, etc.), the custom is now apparently only a way of showing the crowd’s good wishes to the people whose homes are visited. Since Professor Hudson is later to publish elsewhere a full account of this interesting custom, I present here only the traditional speech or chant as supplied him by Mr. Beam.

Good morning to you Sir,
We wish you a happy New Year,
Great health, long life,
Which God may bestow
So long as you stay here below.
May he bestow the house you are in
Where you go out and you go in.
Time by moments steals away
First the hour and then the day.
Small the lost days may appear
But yet they soon amount up to a year.
This another year is gone
And now it is no more of our own,
But if it brings our promises good
As the year before the flood.
But let none of us forget
It has left us much in debt.
A favor from the Lord received
Since which our spirits hath been grieved.
Marked by the unerring hand
Thus in his book our record stands.
Who can tell the vast amount
Placed to each of our accounts?
But while you owe the debt is large
You may plead a full discharge.
But poor and selfish sinners say
What can you to justice pay?
Trembling last for life is past
And into prison you may be cast.
Happy is the believing soul.
Christ for you has paid the whole.
We have this New Years morning called you by your name
And disturbed you from your rest.
But we hope no harm by the same.
As we ask come tell us your desire
And if it be your desire our guns and pistols they shall fire.
Since we hear of no defiance
You shall hear the art of science.
When we pull triggers and powder burns
You shall hear the roaring of guns.
Oh, daughter of righteousness, we will rise
And warm our eyes and bless our hearts,
For the old year’s gone and the New Year’s come
And for good luck we’ll fire our guns.

—————-

I had never heard nor even read the New Year’s Shoot chant before I stumbled across it in The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore. But I can attest the tradition of shooting guns on New Year’s Eve is alive and well in my area of Appalachia.

Tipper

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 1, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Tipper,
    Where did everybody go….?
    Mercy, I guess us old’ens that have their hours mixed up are still awake….Well, let me be the first today to say “Happy New Year” to all….
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    January 1, 2014 at 12:15 am

    Happy New Year to all.
    We had a neighbor, an old Indian man who did this every new year. He fired his shotgun right on time. He has been dead for several years.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 31, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Yep, the tradition is alive and well here in the NC sand hills as well, currently scaring the snot out of our poor dog. LOL
    If tradition here continues as it did last year, the small guns and fireworks will be going off for a while. Then suddenly, we hear someone relatively nearby shoot off something HUGE that sounds like a full grown cannon, and afterwards, everything else is quiet after that. Guess the small arms shooters think they can’t top that, so might as well pipe down altogether. ROFLOL
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 31, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    You know my mother was adamant about the fact that children shouldn’t be allowed to play with guns, unless their daddy was with them, until they were as least 12. Then only .22’s were allowed. Dynamite was out of the question until you were 16. I remember one New Years Eve (or was it Christmas Eve) when we set off 3 sticks of dynamite at the water gauge.
    How is the world going to survive with this new crop of teenee weenies that’s coming up?

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 31, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Tipper,
    Well, I just couldn’t stand it. I had to go to the “Cherryville, NC Shooters” website…Good readin’ on the tradition! The chant is somewhat different in some wording but practically the same. Also very important that it be repeated before shooting as you stated!
    I just was wondering about the German influence and (my family) so I had a look see!
    Didn’t find none of my relatives at least close ones! They fire only muskets with black powder…and the whole group has a “big to do” before New Years Eve..
    They did ask for folks to respect the midnight shootin’s due to some folks working and sleeping hours…
    They also told of the Mummers doing the same thing in New York, Pennsylvania, etc…
    Their chant appears to be much shorter.
    I think I respect the NC chant more. Can’t see as how my Dad would be able to memorize all of that in his youth and gun shootin’ days…LOL
    Also, Dad and his brothers readied the guns the night before, ’cause if there was a snow on New Years Day was a huntin’ day! LOL
    I think the German Boehm family changed their surname to Beam during the 18 Century!…
    Thanks Tipper,
    for this interesting post, I now understand more why my Dad insisted that guns were shot at New Years…He said they had firecarackers too…of course, but guns were the choice celebration in the mountains…
    Just pondering!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Our German/Scotch/Irish heritage in Pennsylvania has pork and sour kraut with some type of apple dish. pie, cake, applebutter or baked apples.
    We also shot the guns and set off fireworks.
    All of this assured health and wealth for the coming year.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 31, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Tipper–I wonder if anyone still “jumps” anvils? That was another New Year’s custom in the mountains. Another was a turkey or beef shot (shooting contest). Don’t forget Hogmanay traditions such as superstitions about the first to cross the threshold and of course all the food folklore.
    I’m guessing you’ll cover the latter tomorrow. Whether you do or not, I’ve got my backbones-and-ribs, I’ll harvest turnip greens from the garden tomorrow morning and cook them with some diced turnips, and I reckon Ms. Ann will fix some hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas and rice).
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    December 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    A few minutes to look back at 2013. We all turned another year older. In my case, I haven’t yet determined if that is a good or bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to still be among the upright and sad that it takes so much more effort to be among the upright. But it was a good year. My wife of over forty-eight years is healthy. Our twelve year old dog survived three complicated surgeries that added another year, at least, to his life. For that I am grateful. The good news that a shipmate in Florida had a successful cardiac procedure that will, in all probability, prolong his presence among us was a great Christmas present..
    I am looking forward to the coming year. I am not big on New Year’s resolutions since I can never keep them. So every year I make the same two. (1) I resolve to resume smoking. (2) I resolve to gain weight. Hopefully, I’ll fail again in 2014.
    Happy New Year to all. I wish good things for you all during 2014. Those of you on the roads drive carefully, it is a time of year when drunks abound. If you are one of the abounds, “Do Not Drive.” We want to see you commenting on the Blind Pig in 2014.
    If you have a chance, try some black-eyed peas with your News Year’s dinner. Growing up, I was told that a person would experience a year of bad fortune for not eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. Figured this was a marketing ploy by the farmers and grocery stores. Never the less, it’s a great tradition. (I like black-eyed peas).
    My wife Kikuko, my dogs Taro and Izumi, and I wish you a happy, prosperous, and blessed 2014.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Tipper,
    This morning and on Fox News, Clay’s
    Corner and the Posseum Drop made the
    World News from New York. And they
    assured the ‘Peta Folks’ that since
    the Posseum was inside a box, he
    wouldn’t be harmed. I’ve seen those
    nose drippin’ things all my life, so
    I’d rather watch a good Football
    Game…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 31, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Look what I found! It is a book for sale but you can still read some good stuff about the New Years shooters and Sidney Beam. If you read down further you will come across Ella May Wiggins who came from Sevier County TN or Swain County NC. She was shot in the chest and died in 1929 for union organizing efforts. Very interesting!
    If the link don’t work, try googling A Sidney Beam Gaston County NC

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    December 31, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Mitchell says they used dynamite!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 31, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    I don’t know of this tradition or the poem recited. I do know of fire crackers, and gun shots at midnight to welcome the new year.. We are a noisy lot aren’t we. It seems that celebration equals noise.
    I am usually long since asleep when midnight arrives so those of you who are up to see the new year in please give it my best regards and tell it I’ll see it in the morning.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Tipper,
    I never heard of that before, but I’m
    not surprised to hear gunshots around
    here either. One year a neighbor got
    drunk and set off some dynamite in his
    back yard. Never knew we had that many
    cops…Ken

  • Reply
    Marc Kruger
    December 31, 2013 at 10:44 am

    In South Jersey in the rural area where we lived, my father (of German/Russian descent) fired off his shotgun into the air at precisely 12am on New Year’s. While he did this we banged on pots and pans. Our neighbors also did the same.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    December 31, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I loved the post, but it shows how our nation has changed. I came up in a world where everyone had guns and adults and children treated them respectfully. My entire extended family hunted and target practiced on the strip mines, and many still hunt. We never used guns on New Year’s, but we sure head a lot of firecrackers. Happy New Year to all the Blind Pig readers and family, and I certainly hope our traditions are never changed by the PCP (politically correct police).

  • Reply
    Luann
    December 31, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Interesting post! Some parts of the country shoot off fireworks rather than guns….
    Happy New Year Tipper and to all the Blind Pig readers!

  • Reply
    Shirla
    December 31, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I have never heard the chant. They still shoot their guns on New Years and also on Christmas in the hills where I grew up. It’s now firecrackers I hear from distant neighbors as they celebrate New Years Eve.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    December 31, 2013 at 9:18 am

    One more thing – please ask Eva Nell to tell more about the Opossum Drop – since I live on ‘Possum Creek, I’m mighty curious about that one.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 31, 2013 at 9:16 am

    They probably moved from guns to firecrakers and the custom of “firing-in” the New Year became more wide-spread. I read this morning a delightful “Recipe for a New Year.” Said to be anonymous, it is full of wisdom and good direction for the New Year. I will send a copy to Tipper. May the New Year smile on all of you!

  • Reply
    Tamela
    December 31, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Guns and fireworks going off on New Year’s Eve is common around here but that “speech” is new to me. Haven’t had “legal” fireworks the last two years because of fire danger but with the dearly appreciated rains this fall, I imagine it will be a noisy night!! Shouldn’t be any evil spirits left tomorrow morning!!!
    To all your family and all your readers, make it a warm and wonderful 2014 and enjoy tonight’s celebrations in warmth and safety.

  • Reply
    Carol Isler
    December 31, 2013 at 8:55 am

    I reckon our mill hill firecrackers and bottle rockets were a modern day extension of this tradition. Great post.

  • Reply
    dolores
    December 31, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I never realized there could be a custom to the shoot a midnight. There is a neighbor close to us who thinks its funny to shoot off his little cannon at midnight and scare his neighbors half to death. I think he uses blanks, but the noise is really scary. I have learned of a new NC tradition. Happy New Year! May it be a happy and healthy one for all!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    December 31, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Will the ‘possom drop’ happen this year or have the nuts been able to stop it?

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull, PhD
    December 31, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Gracious me! I have never heard of this practice or welcome to the New Year. My mother would not have approved of this firing of guns on any occasion!
    HAPPY NEW YEAR ANYWAY YOU WANT TO CELEBRATE! Wish we could once again attend the Opossum Drop at Clay’s Corner. What fun!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    December 31, 2013 at 8:05 am

    That is a new one to me as well but being from the hills I am very familiar with the shooting of guns at midnight to welcome the new year.

  • Reply
    Landon Fields
    December 31, 2013 at 7:29 am

    I with all sincerity plead with this New Year’s Cherryville revelers to take care what direction they discharge their firearms lest they bring down one of those big shiny birds approaching Charlotte Douglas from the North West.

  • Reply
    Quinn
    December 31, 2013 at 7:22 am

    “Small the lost days may appear
    But yet they soon amount up to a year”
    Ain’t that the truth!
    I’m just discovering the value of blogging as a record of the whats and whens of all those “small, lost days”…and finding it hard to believe that another year has truly passed.
    Thank you, Tipper, for each and every Blind Pig post and picture, and for inviting so many amazing people to share their own personal experiences as well. And a special “thank you” for adding Comptonia to your Sit a Spell list…it’s an honor to be included, and I’m pleased and proud to be in such fine company! All the best to you and yours, and to all the Blind Pig readers, in 2014 ūüôā

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 31, 2013 at 7:17 am

    I never hear this either, but the guns fired on New Years I have heard for as long as I can remember.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 31, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Tipper,
    I do believe that the chant had to have been shortened somewhat, don’t you?
    My Father’s side is German desent..and Dad said they always fired guns on New Years Eve!
    I have heard this before but not the complete chant…Mercy, it seems to be a whole story. I know the guns firing was to celebrate the coming of the New Year as well as scaring off evil spirits..
    I wonder how many other “spirits” were being carried around with the firing guns…
    Just pondering!
    Thanks Tipper, great post, I am gonna look for the article that I read a while back about the New Years Eve chant..and gun fireing.
    PS…Mom said that bunch would do about anythin’ on New Years Eve! LOL

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