I grew up just outside of Washington DC, in Fairfax County Virginia. My people are from North Carolina. The only real New Years Tradition I recall is black eyed peas; and really only as black eyed peas cooked with onion, rice, and ham, aka Hoppin John. Always served with greens of course, and cornbread. Always on the table was a bottle of vinegar in which chilis had been placed, the hoppin john was seasoned with the spicy vinegar according to each person taste.
I still do a version of hoppin john, now meatless of course, and the greens are either acelga (swiss chard) or spinach. But I also now make a black eyed pea salad of cook peas, chopped onions, sweet peppers, celery, parsley, and dressed with vinegar, salt, a bit of sugar, and just a splash of oil.
There are quite a few New Years Traditions here in Mexico –
The Yucatan Times posted this list of traditions today. Wish they had posted it last week, I might have tried a few new traditions –
Embrace Mexican traditions to ensure a Happy New Year
On New Year’s Eve in most of Mexico, dinner is served late. The people of Mexico observe numerous traditions and customs on this memorable night, and somehow traditions and folklore mingle and the eventuality becomes a religious symbol.
This is exactly how traditions and myths are born around the world; depending on heathens such as us to sustain and contribute to their endurance.
12 grapes = 12 wishes
Along with supper, one is often served a small bowl of grapes, twelve of them. Each grape represents the coming months in the New Year and a separate wish is made while devouring them in unison of church bells ringing at midnight.
Lentils, a symbol of abundance
Lentils are served in a traditional soup, which represents economic abundance. Though it requires only a spoonful to observe the tradition, we have a hearty helping, considering how long the night is predicted to go on.
And many Mexicans who observe this tradition try to eat as much lentils as they can, to guarantee that the following year will bring riches beyond their wildest imaginings.
While dressing for New Year’s Eve, be sure to drag out your red underwear and wear it inside-out in an effort to assure a future abundant with love, passion and a new wardrobe.
But if you’re looking for gold, then you must wear a yellow or “golden” underwear garment, because that is supposed to assure you a Wealthy New Year.
Some even say that a green boxer underneath your pants could be heplful to have a Healthy New Year.
Sweep the house
Before you head out into the busy Mérida streets on New Year’s Eve, don’t forget to dust and sweep the house, and most importantly, to sweep the old dirt out of your front door; that way you will be well prepared to receive the new year with a clean house without any negative vibes or evil spirits around to “spoil the party”.
Walk around the block with a a bag or a suitcase
Another Mexican tradition says that if you want to travel abroad (or at least to Progreso or Chichen Itza), during the year to come, you must get out on the street at midnight, and actually walk around the block with a a bag or a suitcase, as if you were on your way to the airport. This will help you have lots of different and interesting trips to other cities or countries throughout the year.
Our favorite superstition is the lamb or sheep hanging from the front door. Perhaps you’ve purchased one of the fluffy little darlings at one of the local “mercados” (or even at Walmart).
Though the sheep gives one a warm and fuzzy feeling, the origin of this custom isn’t quite so attractive; intertwined cultures and rituals can become twisted. Passover, a Jewish celebration that actually takes place in the spring, commemorates liberation of the Israelites. It was customary to mark door posts of households with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb to avert the deadly spirit plagued upon all first born sons, causing it to Pass Over these families.
When the Christ child was born, the evil and furious King Herod ordered all baby boys under the age of two to be murdered in hopes of including the Christ child in this carnage when Herod discovered he’d been tricked by the Three Wise Men.
Go to Church
Mexico is mostly a Catholic country, and millions of Mexicans go to church on December 31st, to thank the Lord (or the Virgen de Guadalupe) for a good year, and to ask the favor of a prosperous new year.
So, if you live near a church, be ready for a busy afternoon and early evening.