Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year, Old Traditions

by Mary Kate Hurley

Anglo-Saxonists spend a lot of time thinking about tradition. Just ask John Miles Foley, Michael Drout, or John Niles.

In case you haven't guessed, dear readers, this is a small link to medieval studies to validate a more modern focus: The end of 2008, and the beginning of 2009.

I write this from the living room of the house in which I grew up, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My family is pretty big on traditions, particularly around the holidays. It's not really Christmas until we watch the Muppet Christmas Carol, which my sisters and I know well enough to recite whole scenes from. We still "fight" (emphasis on the quotations) over whose "baby's first christmas" ornament is highest on the tree. But the best tradition of all is New Year's Eve.

Even though the Wake Forest library is open today, I find myself drawn towards working from home -- and all to keep with a tradition that lasts a full 24 hours on New Years. If it's New Year's Eve at the Hurley household, you see, we must be watching the Twilight Zone.

I could sing the show's praises, recite the litanies of how it exposed the contingencies of ideas of beauty, the dangers of mass-thought processes, or the danger of obsession. But I want to ask you, ITM readers -- what are *your* favorite holiday traditions? It can be anything from working in that library in your parent's hometown to the annual re-watching of Frosty the Snowman.

And, on behalf of everyone here at ITM, SĒ½lig Niwe-Gear*!

*NOT authentic Old English. If you find yourself in a particularly medieval Twilight Zone, I'd suggest a more authoritative source.


Eileen Joy said...

This is so weird, I almost don't know what to say. Every year for about three or four years now, it has been *our* tradition on New Year's Eve to order in take-out Chinese food, drink champagne, play poker, and watch the "Twilight Zone" marathon on the Sci-Fi channel. And then, at midnight, bang some pots and pans. So, back to the Sci-Fi channel, friends!

Jeffrey Cohen said...

We all sit around a table and light a candle and spend a quiet evening listing things that have made us happy over the past year. At midnight we are glowing with good feeling ... and as the ball descends to mark the terminus of the year we roast pickles on an open fire outside our front door. Roasting pickles on long sticks by your threshold is an ancient tradition, supposed to bring prosperity in the year ahead.

Not really.

The Cohen Family tradition seems to be to never celebrate New Years the same way twice. We rotate among various friends, and I can't recall being in the same house two years running since Alex was born. Maybe that means that our friends learn to dislike us by midnight and then don't invite us back the following year?

Eileen Joy said...

Jeffrey: you mean you really don't roast pickles on long sticks by the front door? How sad. And yes, your friends--all of them--are really tired of you and Wendy et famille. But they *do* like you. They really really do.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

So here's the thing. Maybe the problem is that we keep convincing our friends that roasting pickles on long sticks by the threshold is a valid tradition ... and the next thing they know, their house/apartment/condo is afire and we are being blamed. I think it's all falling into place now ...

So, Eileen, can we crash your place and watch some TV with you? We'll bring the pickles and sticks!

Eileen Joy said...

Yes, Jeffrey, come on over, and please bring the Stan Getz LPs.

prehensel said...

I always, always, always have to watch White Christmas if I'm at my parents' house on Christmas Eve. I watch it, and my dad attempts to watch it with me--but mostly sleeps in the recliner.

Funny thing is, every year, he'll wake up at some point and say "Oh, that's ol' Danny Kaye." Every year. It wouldn't be Christmas without that.

BONUS: Pickles and open flames are not involved in any way.

Anonymous said...

We celebrated with some good friends from around the corner whose 'children' are the same age as ours. Another University couple the talk was a mix of shop, reading, film, politics and, above all, the family. This year there was much heated discussion about what we all intended to do with our post family years.

Just before midnight we turned on Jools Holland's Hootenanny on the BBC for (this year) Martha and the Vandellas and a glass or two of champagne. That turned out to be the first 'half' of the evening. At 1am they went home and I spent the next four hours half waking, half dozing but essentially waiting until all the said 'children' had safely returned from their revels in the city centre. Needless to say it was the youngest (and so in my eyes most vulnerable) who returned last. The twentysomethings were sensibly back by 2am.

Now midday on 1 January - I intend to spend the last three hours or so of daylight gardening, and early to bed tonight!

So for 2009 I wish you all many sleep-filled nights (!) but no standing still.


Liza Blake said...

Yes! Yes to Twilight Zone! I watched it all day Dec. 31, into Jan. 1, and even until it petered out in the morning of Jan. 2. This year I noticed an abiding interest in epistemology, and the repetition, which I never noticed before, of the quote "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," from Hamlet. Apparently it was RS's mantra.

Eileen, except for the poker, and substituting sauerkraut for Chinese food, we celebrated the New Year in the exact same way! And here I always thought the pots were something my mother invented.