Christmas trees, black-eyed peas, and garbage

Larry Stanford

January 14, 2014

What do Christmas trees, black-eyed peas and garbage have in common? Well, depending on what you did with them around New Year’s Eve could tell how good 2014 will be for you.

Our Christmas tree came down January 2. My girlfriend Pattie follows the tradition her parents taught her of leaving the tree up until January 2. She says if we take it down before then, it is bad luck.

I did some research on this and found out when the trees should be put up and taken down. While most of us put our Christmas trees up sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to, Christian tradition has that the trees should not be put up and decorated until after noon on Christmas Eve. If you do put your tree up earlier, then the lights should not be turned on until after noon on Christmas Eve. The reason the site gives for this is that the lighting of the Christmas tree represents celebrating the Feast of Christmas – the birth of Jesus, and that lighting the tree earlier takes away from the celebration.

As far as taking the tree down, one website said that taking the tree down before the New Year is bringing the past year into the New Year, and it is bad luck. The Catholic website doesn’t mention bad luck, but it does say that Christmas Day is the start of the 12 Days of Christmas, which ended on January 5. That is followed by the Day of Epiphany – the day the three wisemen arrived in Bethlehem to greet the newborn child – January 6. The tree should be left up until the day after the Day of Epiphany (Jan. 7), then taken down immediately.

While I was at it, I started looking at some New Year’s traditions:

• Kissing at midnight. It is said if we kiss our loved ones at midnight, we are ensuring those affections and ties will continue through the next 12 months. If we don’t kiss them, it could be a cold year affectionately.

• Stocking up. If your cupboards are bare when the new year starts, then they will stay bare for the year. The same thing for your wallet – have some money in there to guarantee prosperity. (I didn’t look these up until Jan. 2. All I had in my wallet New Year’s Eve was a check I was waiting to put into the bank. I hope checks count.)

• First footing. The first person to enter your home after the stroke of midnight will influence the coming year. It doesn’t matter if it is a member of your household, a friend, or a stranger, however, it needs to be a man, hopefully bearing gifts. Unfortunately, the tradition says if a female is the first person to step into the house, she will bring disaster down on the household. It also says no one in the house should leave until the first person enters. (We were all outside at a bonfire. We think (and hope) Pattie’s grandson Jesse was the first one to enter the house after midnight.)

• Nothing goes out. Nothing, not even garbage, is to leave the house on the first day of the year. (I wish I had known this sooner, because I took a bag full of garbage out of the house on Jan. 1.)

• Food. In the South, one tradition is that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring both general luck and financial good fortune. Of course, if you eat black-eyed peas with greens, then the peas equal coins and the greens equal paper money. And if you eat cornbread with the peas and greens, the cornbread equals gold. But don’t eat chicken or turkey on the first day of the new year, lest you have to scratch in the dirt for the rest of the year for your dinner – in other words, end up in poverty. (I ate black-eyed peas and cabbage, but didn’t eat any cornbread. No gold for me this year.)