Welcoming in new year
By Clif Knight
Just as time has a way of changing our appearance, it changes the way we live.
Nowhere is that more apparent than the way we observe the New Year’s Day holiday. Today, it’s all about watching football on television, exchanging unwanted or wrong-size Christmas gifts or partying with family and friends.
We serenaded relatives, friends and neighbors when I was a kid. It was the accepted way of ending the old year and ringing in the new.
Siblings young and old would dig out and dress up in the ugliest clothes they could find hidden away in closets, trunks and ragbags – sometimes cross dressing to hide their identities. They’d cover their faces, necks and hands with lipstick and soot and wear a stocking or paper bag over their heads to further disguise who they were.
Serenaders would show up at doors of nearby homes Dec. 31 and ask for permission to come inside. The object was to have those inside “guess who” they were.
To keep the game interesting, visitors would offer hints to their identities, and their neighbors would continue guessing until each visitor was identified. After a big laugh, homeowners would dole out holiday goodies as treats.
The treats ranged from an apple or orange to a handful of parched peanuts or a fried fruit pie. Some of the treats were eaten on the spo,t while others were packed away in a paper poke or a coat pocket for a later snack.
The serenading lasted long enough to warm feet and hands in front of a roaring fireplace. Visits continued until bedtime or until the youngest siblings tired from the walk or wanted to go home, count their treats and cuddle up in a warm bed.
Lighting fireworks was a popular activity for kids as they worked their way back home. Even though they were outlawed in Alabama, they were sold in Georgia. All we needed to do to reach a store that sold them was a running car and a buck for gas. We loaded up with silver salutes, cherry bombs and big reds and made good use of them from Christmas to New Year’s.
In the absence of television, adults spent New Year’s Day hunting rabbits and quail in cornfields, hedgerows and creek bottoms, accompanied by beagles, redbone hounds and bird dogs. Their game provided a bountiful meal of fried meat, hot biscuits and white gravy at suppertime.