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December 26, 2022

Mountain New Year’s Day

STORIES FROM THE APPLEWOOD MANOR

Mountain New Year’s Day, The Applewood Manor Life in the mountains can be challenging and for hundreds of years, it was unquestionably hard—a life and death struggle year after year. Men and women survived, even prospered, by their resourcefulness and sometimes good fortune. Whatever they had, whatever they ate came from their hand. They built it from the materials nature provided. Grew it from seed saved, hunted with weapons made or bartered for. The only medicines were home brewed concoctions as was the liquor they drank. And that life, as hard as it was, could be unalterably changed, or even ended, by the simplest misfortune—a fall, a cut, a bite, even a toothache. So, it isn’t surprising that a body of folklore developed in the form of steps one could take to encourage good fortune. Many such steps involve action to be taken around the coming of a new year:

  • The number one, supreme, absolute, unbreakable duty for ensuring good fortune in the coming year is to celebrate New Year’s Day with a meal that includes black eyed peas, pork [usually ham] and greens. Fail to do this and good fortune will evade you for the full twelve months ahead.
  • Also, bake cornbread on New Year’s Day to ensure steady work in the coming year.
  • Place cut onions throughout the house to soak up bad fortunes and sickness.
  • To ward off evil spirits, use your gun to shoot an anvil or use gunpowder to “jump” the anvil. If you don’t have an anvil, just shoot your gun skyward, and if you don’t have a gun, set a bonfire.
  • Another trick to ward off those evil spirits is to throw fireballs across an open field. The balls are made from old rags soaked in something flammable.
  • Open every door and window to let out the bad and let in the good.
  • Attend your church’s Watch Service to pray for the coming year.
  • Join the “Shooters” going house to house chanting: “Here we stand before your door, As we stood the year before; Give us whiskey; give us gin; Open the door and let us in.”
  • As an alternative to the whiskey drinking Shooters, simply go “Serenading”, visiting others—singing, storytelling, and even dancing.
  • Clean out the cabinets and kitchen pantry making sure they are well stocked with food to guard against a shortage in the new year.
  • Air all the blankets and quilts so this year’s sicknesses don’t follow you into the new year.
  • For your childrens‘ good health, measure them from their nose to their knee with a strip of ribbon and store it safely away.
  • Sweep and mop the floors from back to front while reciting the 23rd Psalm.
  • Put a new silver coin in your wallet to ensure wealth in the new year.
  • To assure that you will have all you need in the new year, stick seven pennies into a potato and hide it in the kitchen for safekeeping.
  • On New Year’s Eve, oil door hinges from behind the door.
  • Arrange for the new year’s “first foot”—the first person to visit you signifies your fortune for the year—a man is good luck whereas a woman is bad luck.
  • Spank the corners of your home with branches of a tree to keep away misfortune, lightning strikes, and thieves.
  • Put a needle into an egg and bury the egg upright in your front yard to ensure blessings and protection.

The tradition of eating black-eyed peas, pork, and greens with cornbread dates on New Year’s date traces back to the winter of 1864 – 1865, when Union General William T. Sherman led his invading troops on their destructive march through Georgia. Poke salad growing wild, southern salted pork, and fields of black-eyed peas were left untouched because they were deemed unfit for humans. These and corn meal made from dried corn saved Southerners from mass starvation and were thereafter regarded as a symbol of good luck.


Asheville has been called many things—weirdest, happiest, quirkiest place in America, Santa Fe of the East, New Age Capital of the World, Paris of the South, Beer City USA, Most Haunted, Sky City and others. It has many secrets, mysteries, and legends—some factual, some alleged, some exaggerated and some just plain lies.

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Mountain New Year’s Day, The Applewood Manor

62 Cumberland Circle, Asheville, NC 28801 | 828-254-2244 | contact@applewoodmanor.com


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