I’m thinking today of some of the New Year’s customs from my native southeastern Illinois where many of the people came from Kentucky and Tennessee. True to the southern tradition, cabbage and black-eyed peas were popular foods on New Year’s Day. The cabbage represented green folding money and the peas represented coins. Eating them meant having economic prosperity throughout the year. I’ve also heard of folks sleeping with a horseshoe under their pillows on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck. I’ve tried the cabbage and the peas, and while I’ve never slept with a horseshoe under my pillow, I do keep one on a shelf in my study, a large horseshoe rescued from my family farm before I sold it, a shoe that must have come from the days when my grandfather plowed with a team of draft horses. I keep it turned up so the luck doesn’t fall out.
My parents weren’t big New Year’s Eve revelers, but they did usually host or attend an oyster soup supper for, or with, my aunts and uncles. The supper was generally followed by an evening of playing cards: pitch, euchre, or Rook. As far as I’ve been able to discover, the custom of eating oysters as a way of bringing good fortune comes from the Chinese. I’m fairly certain that my parents never set foot inside a Chinese restaurant, so if anyone knows more about this custom as it applies to those outside the Chinese culture, I’d be interested to hear from you. I’m particularly interested in how that custom of oysters on New Year’s Eve made its way to the farms and small towns of southeastern Illinois.
Sometimes we need something solid to hold onto to give us faith in the future rolling out ahead of us. I make this post on New Year’s Eve, 2012, as a fine snow comes down on Columbus, Ohio, and as I wait to see why I’ve developed an irregular heartbeat three weeks after my PFO closure. I returned my 24-hour heart monitor this morning, and we’ll see what it shows my cardiologist. He’s told me that he’s confident that the device he implanted in my heart isn’t causing my arrhythmia. Maybe he’s right. Who knows? One more wrinkle to deal with here at the end of what’s been for me a challenging past three months. But it’s also been a year of good friends, good students, good books, good time spent with good people, and, when I was lucky and the muse was with me, good writing. I’m grateful to have had the chance to experience it all.
I wish you all a prosperous New Year, no matter what your lucky foods may be or what customs you may follow. I look forward to our paths crossing in 2013. Until then, love and blessings, and much, much, much good luck.