Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The New Year Ushers in Old Superstitions

I don't believe much of what I hear. I often pretend to believe it...just to be polite. But, in truth, I'm a sceptic. Except in one area. Superstitions.

The more outlandish, the more I believe. For instance, while I have a hard time believing that the recession is going to wrap up this Fall, I have an easy time believing that if I eat a spoonful of black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, I will strike it rich.

Most of my favorite superstitions came from childhood carpool rides. Growing up, it was weird when families instigated a seatbelt rule (this was the pre-safety 80s.) But it wasn't unusual for them to have rules such as:

Hold your breath when passing a graveyard so that you don't accidentally swallow any ghosts. Touch the ceiling of the car, hold your breath and make a wish when passing under a bridge. Otherwise, you'll crash. When you see a Texas license plate, touch three shades of blue, and before the day is over, you'll meet your one love true. (Conversely, if you're walking with someone you love and come upon a pole or tree, choosing opposite sides will result in losing each other forever.)

In the interest of not looking crazy, I left most of these practices behind in my youth.

But there's one time of year that I let superstition reign: The passing of the New Year. The main thing you want to do in the new year is throw away anything broken or torn in your house. Some of you might not have broken stuff lying around, but we do. Keeping it invites hardship. Not to mention it's broken, so when are you ever going to use it?

Then you want to rearrange your kitchen cabinets in some fashion, which invites a reversal of fortune (not recommended if you're already fortunate.)

Then, on New Year's Eve, you bang pots and pans. As a kid, I thought everyone did this; all the children in our neighborhood did, but apparently, it's a Polish tradition, which makes sense because I grew up in Poland. Wait a second, no I didn't. I think it's just one of those traditions that spread all over the world because it's free, only takes two minutes and doesn't require any special effort, making it a mother's dream come true.

I always thought the point of this tradition was to make noise, but I've since learned it's to chase off the old year.

This year, we were in Boston and it was subzero but I dragged the kids out there at 10 o'clock (midnight Mountain Time). Richie wanted to ring in the new year by sitting on the couch and staring into space, but I made him join us.

I didn't want to give 2008 any ideas.

2008: Richie didn't try to scare me away, so maybe I'll just hang around for another year.

Me: Uh, as you can see, all my children are out here clanking away, so take your recession and all the other crappy things you brought with you and get the hell outa here.

2008: Oh, all right.

You might be wondering if all this superstition is working. Not yet.

Some say doing the same thing and expecting different results year after year is the definition of insanity. I think it's the definition of persistance.

If you follow superstition persistantly, eventually, something good will happen. Of course, something good will probably happen even if you don't follow superstions, but you will have missed out on the joy of clanking pots and pans, de-junking your house and finally having your cups and glasses located above the dishwasher, which are good things in and of themselves.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Japanese believe you clean your dwelling to sweep out all the bad spirits, and to make room for the good ones in the new year. My boss is Japanese, so we keep that tradition at work. We clean our office space, the crew cleans out their trucks, and we all sit down together for a nice luncheon. I was dissapointed it was so cold New Year's Eve. I wanted all of us to go around the neighborhood banging pots (never heard of that tradition in New England, but I love it)! I was glad though to spend the rest of the night with just you and me watching a girlie movie, and letting 2008 go into oblivion, where it belongs! Love, Jeanne

8:43 AM  
Blogger Tim Higgins said...


I failed to perform any of the New Year's actions that you described, failed to forward any of the emails that I was supposed to, and haven't rearranged my kitchen cabinets since I moved to Toledo 2-1/2 years ago. I fear therefore, that I am doomed.

My only consolation in all of this may be that I exceed expectations in the sceptic department. I have reached a stage in life where I doubt what I hear even when I am talking to myself.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had 11:00 midnight at our little party with friends. We watched the Evil Kenivel special thinking it was a midnight show, but at 5 after, we realized we missed it. Your dad and I saw the new year in when we got home and banged pans in the living room. We have to stay up since it's the anniversary of our first date 41 yrs ago. Great blog entry! Hope it's a fortunate year for your family. Love, Mom

7:27 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home