Lang may your lum reek.
May the fire on your hearth burn on.
—Scottish New Year toast
Dropping a possum at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is most definitely not a traditional Appalachian custom. Please note that the folks in Brasstown, NC, self-proclaimed “Opossum Capital of the World,” have only been dropping—well, ok, gently lowering in a plexiglas pyramid—possums in front of Clay’s Corner for the last decade and a half or so.
Some of the more historically rooted New Year traditions found in Appalachia include the New Year baby. This tradition, a symbol of rebirth, originated in ancient Greece and made its way into the region via German immigrants, who added the twist of baby with a New Year’s banner.
Spending the New Year’s day with some combination of black-eyed peas and rice—They symbolize luck, friends, and money—is customary in many parts of Appalachia.
Does your family give gifts on New Year’s Eve? The Celtic-Teutonic Druids used to present branches of their holy mistletoe plant as an auspicious New Year gift. And among the English people gloves, a clove-stuck orange, and flavored wine were popular New Year gifts.
These days the World Anvil Shooting Society holds its annual anvil shooting competition over at Laurel, Mississippi’s Wood Expo every April, but informal backyard anvil shootings as an Appalachian holiday season event can be traced back to the Civil War.
Some folks in Appalachia open every door and window at the stroke of midnight to let out any residual bad luck. They make a loud ruckus banging on pots and pans, setting off fireworks and taking part in other noisy activities to chase it far away.
The Scots-Irish community often observes first-footing on Hogmanay (Scottish word for the last day of the year) — the first person to set foot over a neighbor’s threshold on the New Year brings that household luck for the year. First footer greeters hope for a fair-haired man and that he will be carrying a lump of coal for the fire, a loaf for the table and whiskey for the man or men of the house.