Your New Years traditions, new and old (and occasionally odd)

Hopefully you’ve already stocked up on black eyed peas — don’t worry, it’s not another Y2K scare — black eyed peas just seem to be a popular New Years tradition. New Years Eve and Day are packed with traditions — some so ingrained nobody thinks to mention them, while others are more unique. Some traditions are looked upon fondly, while others might cause a bit of gagging. Some Juneauites have offered to share some of these traditions, from pots and pans to dishes and kisses.


Here’s a given — New Years Eve is a night to be spent with family and friends, whether it’s a cozy night at home or a big night on the town. As the year draws to a close, people the world over want to welcome the New Year in the company of loved ones.

When it comes to parties, many host their own, while others head to the restaurants and bars providing live music and dance floors.

Options this New Years Eve included a good old-fashioned barn dance or some newer traditions like Juneau Jazz & Classics’ second annual Swing in the New Year dance with Thunder Mountain Big Band or KXLL’s first annual Block Party at the Wharf.

Then there are the more family oriented traditions, though one ought not assume that translates to quiet.

Peggy McKee Barnhill tells about a tradition her family has shared for years, even as technology has required some changes.

“Our family has a tradition of looking through our family photos from the past year on New Year’s Eve. We all gather around the photo albums and start at January of the waning year. We always take a photo of ourselves looking at the photos, and that’s where we start the next year. The past few years we’ve used a digital camera (we came late to the digital age) and we really miss those photo albums. Now we make a slide show on the computer, complete with our favorite music.”

A group of long-time friends in their 20s will welcome the New Year in a cabin, surrounded by nature, according to Alex Miller. They’ll toast to new beginnings and old friends when their iPhones strike midnight.

Midnight. There are a host of traditions that commence the second midnight arrives. Midnight kisses, champagne toasts, watching the ball drop in Times Square, lighting off fireworks and making lots of noise.

Callie Conerton has grown up living on Telephone Hill and fondly recalls banging pots and pans and generally making as much noise as possible with neighbors while looking out over downtown.

The Barnhills’ celebration continues with “lots of noise — my husband plays the bagpipes — and (we) shoot off confetti poppers at midnight. The confetti gets all over the living room — we can usually find a piece or two left over when we put up our Christmas tree the next December.”

Nobody will miss the entrance of the New Year with such boisterous celebrating.

While many traditions are loud, others are more thoughtful.

Lisa Morley writes hopes and wishes for the new year on pieces of paper, which are then lit on fire. She also mentions “ridding oneself of negative behaviors or thoughts.”

According to Marsha Bennett, Leah Lebar of Energy Works facilitates welcoming the New Year with group meditation on world peace and dance.

Nicole Church is focused on starting anew, especially after the holidays.

“I’m feeling rejuvenated and inspired,” shared Church.

The New Year does tend to make people want to improve themselves and their lives. New Years resolutions are a tradition many share and occasionally struggle with. Jennifer Nu and Peggy McKee Barnhill both share some tips for making or keeping resolutions in their respective columns, Words of Wellness and Gimme a Smile.

Now, one category of traditions could almost warrant its own feature – food.

Yumi Arimitsu was one of many to bring up black eyed peas as a tradition.

“Rachael Juzeler has to eat black eyed peas,” she said, “they’re usually all gone from the (grocery stores) so she gets a can of them and makes us all take a spoonful like medicine.”

Pagan Hill, Morgan Hopson and Empire reporter Emily Miller also mentioned black eyed peas.

“It’s Southern,” Hill says of the tradition, “My mom used to say something about black-eyed peas being good luck because the eyes look toward the future.”

Southerner and former Juneau nurse, Sabrina Bullard’s grandmother will call her to make sure she’s had her black-eyed peas.

Another explanation is that the beans swell up, representing prosperity.

Hill also has collard greens and ham hocks. Farrah Gerber, who grew up on the border of Texas and Arkansas, recalls with less enthusiasm her mother serving them butter beans and collard greens. The greens’ symbolism is the color of money.

Joshua Peters also shared an edible tradition that didn’t strike him as terribly appealing, though he’s keeping it up. His mother would make them eat pickled herring for good luck and wealth, a tradition apparently so important they were served the salty fish on crackers in the family van on a long road-trip home from visiting his grandparents.

“ Perhaps I can get our 9-year-old daughter to eat it, but I doubt it,” said Peters, ”We’ll see.”

Those of Germanic descent share another food-centric tradition. Heather (Bayless) Gilchrest, who will blend traditions with her new family this year, brings with her the tradition of eating sausage and sauerkraut for luck.

Amy Fletcher’s table always had a similar spread. They eat “sauerkraut and pork, with applesauce on the side, a Pennsylvania Dutch (German) tradition.”

“Both sides of my family come from Alliance, Ohio, about 20 miles from the Pennsylvania border. Cabbage is apparently considered to be lucky for its resemblance to paper money (though sauerkraut of course looks nothing like any money I have ever seen). As for pork, some say it’s lucky because pigs are forward-facing animals: they can’t look back without turning around. Others say pigs are just generally associated with the idea of having enough to eat, so it signified a profitable year.”

Many traditions seem linked to cultural heritage. Julie Sanbei is happy that her family shares “amazingly awesome Japanese food” for dinner. The new twist is they include vegan options to suit dietary needs.

Ashton Allen shared a tradition she described as “random, but a tradition nonetheless,” which included turkey enchiladas, ridged potato chips, French onion dip, and drinking root beer floats while the ball drops.

Most of these traditions can take place anywhere, indluding right at home, though Keith Crocker prefers to begin the New Year in a new location. If he isn’t working, he is likely in another country, if he is working, he’ll be on a plane soon. This year he’ll be leaving for Paris and the list of places he’s been is diverse.

“Last few years were Riga, (Latvia); Warsaw, (Poland); Prague, (Czech Republic); Isla Mujeres, Mexico — before that Laos, Arizona, Thailand, and 1999 in New Zealand.”

Wherever you are, whenever you drifted off to sleep, whatever is on your plate (figuratively and literally) – whatever your traditions may be, have a happy and healthy new year.

Looking for a local adventure? Look no further than Auke Lake, where for 20 years, Juneauites have been participating in a polar bear dip. It started when Eaglecrest skiers Barb and Earl Greening, Mary Bardone, Bill Platte and daughter Piper, Len Cedar and daughter Eva finished a great day of skiing that, since the sun was still out, they decided to dip into Auke Bay waters. Barb Greening died earlier in the year and the others have since moved or are traveling this holiday season, so Monica Bethers has made sure the tradition will continue. THe dip will take place at 1 p.m, New Years day.

While Crocker may take flight and Bethers may take a dip, some choose to keep the traditions very low key. History columnist Jack Marshall spends the day watching football and doesn’t mind a midday nap, though he admits his wife might.

Sarah Lewis shared a couple more intimate traditions, as did Susan Jabal.

Lewis wrote, “Oh, definitely the satisfaction, even ecstasy of starting a new Moleskine weekly notebook on New Year’s Day. It’s an annual ritual for me. That, and I was married on New Year’s Day, so no matter what else my husband and I do, we always spend the turn of the year together.”

And Jabal has a fun and meaningful tradition with her husband.

“My husband and I have a tradition of getting a pumpkin at Halloween time and then on New Years day, finding a spot — preferably high — to throw it off of and watch it splat – releasing the past into history and starting the year by leaving something behind.”

“It’s kind of silly I know, but our first year together contained a lot of tribulations, we never got around to carving our Halloween pumpkin, so on New Years Day we suddenly decided to throw it off a bridge in Skagway over a huge ravine. The crash was spectacular, and we felt the power of letting go. So we now continue the tradition, with our kids.”

Whether you cherish your traditions or they make you hold your nose, whether your traditions are deeply seeded in your cultural heritage or new traditions formed with loved ones — may they bring prosperity, happiness and health in the New Year.

Polar bear dip photos by Klas Stolpe, Swing in the New Year photo courtesy of Juneau Jazz & Classics, Telephone Hill New Years Eve 2006 photo by Jeff Brown.


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