Kage Baker. An acknowledgement of the import of the date. A few references to obscure, eccentric and/or amusing customs in other lands and times. A genial well-wishing to my patient Dear Readers.
That is the basic structure of any of my blogs, and particularly for this first holiday of a New Year. And that is about all I’m going to manage to get down here tonight, as I am tired beyond words. We have all escaped from the pernicious gravitational tide of 2020, but just at the moment I am barely keeping my head above the retreating tide of evil murk.
Ah, Kage, my dear old buddy – we certainly fought and ran from a lively selection of horrors in our time! We survived Reagan’s amiable mismanagement of first California and then the entire nation; we found and kept jobs in the worst of economic times, because we had to do it. Remember when you were working sales for a company that sold suspicious sports memorabilia? Or when I worked for that crazy sweat room business that made custom window treatments? (Never just blinds, o no!) Ah, we had some good old times. I miss you.
Here’s to the the end of the year we all spent in the garbage crusher! May its like never be see again in my lifetime. Or yours, Dear Readers, as some of you are significantly younger than I am. I lived through Nixon and the Watergate break-in; through Reagan’s beatification of the Nicaraguan Contras as “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers; through a myriad demented Defense schemes, and not-quite wars, and all the times our government pulled faces and spit at other countries.
Now, in cultures unlike our own … on the last night of the year, Colombians place three potatoes—one peeled, one unpeeled, and one half peeled—beneath their beds. At midnight, they reach down and pull out the first potato they touch. Peeled means they’ll have financial problems, unpeeled indicates abundance, and half peeled…well, somewhere in between. So if you want an excuse for the desperate life you usually lead, you can rely on the potatoes.
In Italy, they eat lentils; in the southern USA, they eat black-eyed peas and rice; in Spain, they eat 12 raisins as quickly as possible while the clocks chime the 12 strokes of midnight. It’s supposed to be for good luck – I guess if you don’t choke while cramming raisins in your gob during the 24 seconds the bells take, it counts as really good luck.
In the Philippines, they eat 12 round fruit – any round fruit, they are meant to signify coins and thus prosperity. There doesn’t seem to be any time limit, so I guess you’re ahead of Spain right there. In Denmark they eat boiled cod with mustard, and then marzipan doughnuts. At least, I think it’s sequential. I had some friends who liked kippers with powdered sugar doughnuts, but I never thought to ask them if it was traditional or some peculiar aberration of Faire exhaustion.
In parts of Canada, they go ice fishing (and presumably, eat them afterwards.) In Ireland, they throw bread against the walls of their houses. In Greece, they bake special yeast bread and give it to the poor. In China, and other parts of the East, they make special super-long soba noodles called “crossing-over noodles.”
And everyone, everywhere, sets off fireworks. And shoots guns into the air. And starts fires and shoots holes through property, trees and the neighbors. In the LA Basin area, police helicopters will not fly around midnight on New Year’ Eve, because they have gotten hit and disabled in the past …
But, you know what, Dear Readers? It’s all to honour the point where the stars slip from one domain to the next. It is rather arbitrary as to date and time, but the global weight of belief that now accompanies all this panoply surely tips the celebrations over to significance. There are a lot of philosophies that contend human being are the sensory equipment of the Universe – we are how stars and cosmic dust and Martian sand worms and coelacanths and every variety of Bug-Eyed Monster (including Homo sapiens) recognizes itself and the Universe and the relationships between them.
So be certain to take note of all the amazing stuff that goes on around you, Dear Readers. You are the eyes and ears of the Universe.
Happy New Year, y’all.