Take out, then take in:
Bad luck will begin.
Take in, then take out:
Good luck comes about.
Welcome to 2014!
This New Year’s Day has a huge charge of energy for new beginnings, since the New Moon arrived in the early hours this morning (here in the States).
As my frequent visitors here know, New Moons offer a magical moment of genesis, when wishes, like seeds, can be planted for the days ahead. They gestate in the darkness, and as Lady Luna waxes, they grow along with Her, coming into their fruition at the Full Moon.
This particular New Moon, arriving as it does on this first day of a brand New Year, is in the pragmatic, materially ambitious sign of Capricorn, and it is surging with intensity. For more information about it, I recommend this excellent article by Judy Joyce, this one by Diane (Neith) Lang at Libra Seeking Balance, or this as well, by astrologer Pat Paquette.
The Magic of New Year’s Day
Everything you do on this day has magical implications for the coming year.
So don’t throw anything out (even the trash), or lend money or pay bills. If you must carry something out, be sure to bring something else in first, preferably the cash you concealed outside last night!
Since whatever we do on this day will be repeated throughout the year, I like to make New Year’s Day an ideal day, and do a little of all the things I most want to enjoy in the coming year.
History and Customs
New Year’s, as we now celebrate it, comes from the Romans, who moved the New Year from Spring Equinox to January in 153 BCE and celebrated with six days of carousing and rejoicing, ending just as the Twelve Days of Christmas do, on January 6.
They got drunk, wore disguises, and kept their tables laden with food all night long to ensure plenty in the coming year (and perhaps to appease the Fates).
Later, the Christian bishop, Wynfryth Boniface, visiting from England in 742 C.E., complained about how the Kalends of January were celebrated in Rome with “dancing in the streets, heathenish cries, sacrilegious songs, tables laden with food and women wearing amulets and offering them for sale.” To somewhat dampen the enthusiasm, the Roman Catholic church declared this the day of the Circumcision.
The ancient Romans also gave each other small gifts called strenae, which were named for the Goddess of the New Year, Strenia (or Strenua). They gave away lucky coins that bore the two faces of the God Janus on one side and a ship on the other (for He was considered the patron of ships and trade).
In England, gloves and pins were the traditional New Years gifts up until the 19th century. In France, children give their parents handmade gifts, with a wish of “Bonne Année!”
Food eaten on New Years Day always has significance, as it also affects the quality of the coming year. In ancient times, the Romans gave friends a glass jar full of dates and dried figs in honey, along with a bay leaf branch so the coming year would be sweet and full of good fortune.
Neapolitans still wrap dried figs in laurel leaves and exchange them, wishing one another abundance for the coming year. They also make confections of caramelized dough and tiny almond pieces which are eaten over a period of days.
Throughout Japan, preparing and serving special New Year’s foods is an important ritual. The sacred meal is shared with the kami [divine spirits] as well as family members. Rice is one of the most important foods served. It is specially prepared and shared with the ancestors, and the Gods, like Toshigami, the Year God, who each family hopes will bring good fortune for the coming year.
Hoppin’ John for Luck
One of the most famous magical foods to be eaten on New Year’s comes from the American South. Hoppin’ John is an old favorite dish that was a staple of slaves in the antebellum Carolinas, where African bean stews (also found in the Caribbean) met the local American rice industry and came deliciously together.
Possibly the earliest appearance of the dish by the name Hopping John was in an 1847 cookbook called The Carolina Housewife.
No one knows for sure how the name originated, but one reasonable suggestion is that it’s a corruption of the French-Caribbean words pois à pigeon, or pigeon pea, a relative of the black-eyed pea, and which would be pronounced “pwah-ah-pee-john.”
Every Southern cook (and cookbook) I know has a recipe for Hoppin’ John, but there are three basic ingredients that never vary (unless you are a vegetarian).
The black-eyed peas (sometimes field peas or crowder peas may be substituted) are the most important symbolic food. In many cultures, beans and other legumes are thought to bring good luck because of their resemblance to coins (which means the promise of wealth).
The rice is for fertility (which is why we throw rice at newlyweds with such gusto). And of course, most old Southern recipes require that fatback, ham bone, or bacon is used to flavor the stew, since pigs are lucky and cooking up a pig in a pot is a sign of prosperity. Usually, just to ensure plenty of extra folding cash, collard or mustard greens are also served on the side.
While nowadays, you can find Hoppin’ John recipes that are all chic and gussied-up, with tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black beans, or made with a fancy rice pilaf, I think that plain and simple is the real spirit of it.
Other things to think about
Beware of doing any laundry today, lest someone we love be ‘washed away’ (die) in the upcoming months. The more cautious warn against even washing dishes, which is just fine with me. Sweeping is also out, for similar reasons!
Naturally, I will wear something new, to ensure that new clothes will be coming my way in the new year, and, just like my mama taught me, I will be speaking only sweet words.
Last but not least, like the Romans, we might give honor to the Goddess Strenia. She is the ancient Sabine Goddess of the New Year.
Her name is synonymous with the Sabine word for well being or welfare. Strenia was the Goddess who made a person strenuus, “vigorous, strong,” and She is also closely associated with Hygieia and Salus.
Sacred boughs of laurel were carried in procession to Her shrine at at the top of the Via Sacra. This led to the Roman practice of decorating palm, bay, and laurel branches by hanging them with sweets, dates, figs, and gilded fruit.
May the Goddesses and Gods of plenty load your table with more and finer abundance than you could imagine! May peace, prosperity, and harmony be plentiful, for ourselves and all our relations.
Happy New Year!