Ringing out the old, ringing in the new. Everyone’s doing it tomorrow night. One New Year tradition in Appalachia is the New Year baby. The custom of using a baby to signify the New Year originated in ancient Greece, the baby symbolizing in this case not birth, but re-birth. The Germans added the twist of a baby with a New Year’s banner, bringing the idea with them to early America.
The traditional New Year’s meal throughout the region generally centers around black-eyed peas. They might be accompanied by rice and stewed tomatoes, or ham and cabbage, or whipped into a Hoppin’ John (or Hop’n John) stew. But wherever they turn up, they symbolize luck, friends, and money in the coming year.
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.