I made it through another year. And I'm grateful. That's exactly was I what thinking when my phone rung on New Years' morning. I was still in bed watching television, lounging on my treasured last day off from work. Reluctantly I reached for the phone. It was my mom.
"Happy New Year!" she said, followed immediately by, "I'm hope I'm not the first person that called you."
As a matter of fact my mother was not the first person to ring me up. Sometime after the ball dropped my current man of interest had called to wish me a happy new year (and to chastize me for not calling him first, but that's another subject for another day). And an hour before mom called my baby brother had interrupted my beauty sleep to inquire whether or not I was still coming to pick up my niece the next day. Grrrr.
I relayed all this information to my mom and she breathed an audible sigh of relief on the other end of the phone.
"Good, a man called you first. Two men. " she replied. "That means you should have double good luck."
"Good luck?" I asked doubtfully, wondering why being wrenched from an otherwise perfectly restful sleep by not one but two bass-laden voices should somehow deem me amongst the lucky.
"Yes, luck. The first person to call or come over your house on New Year's day has to be a man if you want to have a fortunate year. Everybody knows that."
Really? Well now, how come I didn't know that? Of course, I'm no stranger to New Year's superstitions. In fact, I could hear my mom rattling pots and pans in the background faithfully preparing the black-eyed peas and cornbread that were supposed to ensure our prosperity for the coming year.
But the whole "lucky man" thing really threw me for a loop. I mean, women's equality be damned. Right?
Apparently mom was just drawing on an age-old tradition called First Footing. According to this tradition, the first person to enter your home after the stroke of midnight will influence the year you're about to have. Ideally, this First Footer should be a tall, dark, handsome, man who comes bearing a small gift such as a lump of coal.
Now I've never been prone to superstitions, but even I have to admit that an attractive man showing up on my doorstep willing to pay my heating bill would be a welcome sight.
On the contrary according to the same tradition the First Footer should never be a woman. In fact, women shouldn't even be allowed to speak until a man says "Happy New Year" first, unless of course you want to bring disaster down on the entire household.
Is it just me, or does that sound like something some grumpy old man just made up? It makes absolutely no sense and I told my mom as much.
But the truth is that superstitions have been a part of our culture for longer than anyone can remember. Perhaps these time-honored traditions first formed out of our need to make sense of the world around us, or maybe they were just our way to try to control fate. Regardless, when it comes to celebrating the New Year, every country and culture has its unique routines and charms to influence the incoming year with good fortune, health, prosperity, and love.
So, I made sure to ask my mom to save me some black-eyed peas and cornbread...you know...uh...just because they taste good. Oh and if any of my girlfriends happen to be reading this, next New Years' please don't call me in the morning. Just in case.