Here’s to All Our New Starts

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We’re obsessed. It’s everywhere, on Facebook, on our blogs, all the places we communicate with others. We’re all talking about this new start, this new chance, this new leaf to turn.

2016—this new year.

We’re making resolutions and goals and lists and choosing “one little word” to guide and motivate us. We’re talking about the projects we finished as the old year ended and the ones we’ll start today, to start the year right..

I’m just fascinated by all the weight and symbolism we assign to the new year.

I’ve been doing it all morning.

I wrote in my personal journal about the goals I have for this year.

I went for a walk, to start the year right. When I got to the hill, I didn’t stop and turn back. I went to the top . . . to start the year right.

It was cloudy—was that a sign that the year might be bleak? No, look at that expanse of unsullied snow—that’s surely a sign, a metaphor for the year before me.

And, look, the sun is coming out after all!

Now, I’m going to go wash the sheets and tidy the kitchen counters and wind a new warp and cut some fabric for a quilt . . . to be sure to start this year right!

I’m sure humans have been doing this since calendars were invented. As soon as we could point to one day that was an Ending and the next a Beginning, we started thinking about those days differently than all others and we started thinking about our lives differently from that day to this.

I imagine all calendar-based cultures have superstitions about these new years and starting them well. If I were a grad student again, maybe I’d research these superstitions. But I am a blogger now, and rumination wins out over research.

The one tradition that I am most aware of is the eating of pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. When I moved to central Pennsylvania, I was introduced to this tradition and, boy, did they take it seriously! A guy I knew told about his grandfather who was in the hospital on New Year’s and was not given pork and sauerkraut. So, he died. Bad luck, indeed!

No one could tell me where the practice came from so I researched it and learned that the tradition came from Pennsylvania Germans. They believed that it was good luck to eat pork because pigs root forward, symbolic of the future and progress, while other animals scratch backwards. The eating of sauerkraut meant that the bitter of the year could be dispensed with on the first day, leaving the rest of the year for the sweet.

Because I am the past, present, and future President of the Pollyanna Fan Club (no term limits—yay!), all the signs and symbols I see are positive, all I see before me in this new year are possibilities and opportunities. Even the fact that I was up at 3 a.m. today (and, no, it wasn’t because I had stayed out all night partying) can be turned into a sign of being eager to begin this new, special year.

But I think that’s human nature. Does any good Pennsylvania German sit down to pork and sauerkraut and think, “Humph. The pig is dead and it’s just fermented cabbage, not magic. This year is clearly going to suck”? Does anyone raise that glass of bubbly and say, “We who are about to die, salute you”?

Nah. We relish our positive signs and good portents and wish each other well. We choose to believe that this, this, will be the best year.

I really like this about human nature, yours and mine. We all know that this is a day like any other day, it’s just an arbitrary marker. And, yet, we use it to challenge ourselves to be better, to do better. We celebrated last night in ways consistent with what we want for year. Some of us went out and were social and adventurous, others stayed home and were cozy and mellow, all hoping to lay the groundwork for a very fine year.

But, maybe, when the bloom is off the new year and its spiffy new shine seems tarnished, we should remind ourselves that a new beginning is a state of mind and only an arbitrary marker. Every new day starts a new year, a new cycle in our lives, and we should greet them all with wonder.

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53 thoughts on “Here’s to All Our New Starts

  1. This is the most marvellous post I have read in ages. Including the pig consumption! We will eat cheese pie today in honour of my husbands Greek heritage! May our lovely New Year be untarnished for a long time.

  2. Pork and sauerkraut. ..yum! Really, I mean it! I’m having lentil burgers tonight but am definitely going to have to whip up a pot of pork and sauerkraut in the near future.

    I’ve mentioned before that I procrastinate, so I’ll make my new year’s resolutions tomorrow or maybe the day after.

    Kerry, wishing you and yours the best year ever!

    • I have to admit, I never really took to the pork and sauerkraut, although if it’s in the form of kielbasa, I can get interested. I think resolutions made a couple days after new year, when the unrealistic glow wears off, may have more staying power! I hope you have a super great year, Susan! Thanks for being here!

  3. I love this Kerry! I always figure when a day is not turning out to be very good, okay bad, just shake it off and make it right. I go on the premise of doing what makes you happy everyday!

  4. Ah, Kerry, it’s so good to read such thoughts. Looking back on the past year, I can say it wasn’t that great, but then again, not bad either, and as with a garden, there’s a chance to start again. What better marker than the new year for starting to care for body and soul with a little more persistent attention. Good luck with your intentions and best wishes for the new year!

    • I know–I never really got into the pork and sauerkraut either. I find it interesting but not so appetizing! Happy year, Pauline–thanks for all your support! XXOO

  5. You said it, friend. 🙂 I have experienced a whole new year event – I’ve been down and out sick as a dog. I haven’t been this sick in so many years I can’t remember so I’m assuming I have nowhere to go but up in the new year. Maybe I can apply to be a Pollyanna volunteer? I could go for the pork but someone else would have to eat my sauerkraut. Have a great 2016. 🙂

  6. We are having pork today (grew up in Eastern PA and lived in Lancaster County for some years!) but no sauerkraut I adore it but Peter not so much. You are doing today, what I read about years ago to do, doing everything on the first day of the year that you want to do all year. It’s a great idea, and feels very positive. The temperatures are cooling off here and I am so glad. On my walk this morning I did not sweat to death and I’m thinking that the flannel sheets can go back on the bed soon and maybe we can light the (gas) fireplace tonight for drinks… ;-D
    Happy New Year Kerry!

    • My husband is more inclined to the whole pork and sauerkraut combo than I am! We had a nice first-day-of-the-year and I expect the whole year to be good and look forward to it. I will think of you tonight, when we are in front of our (gas) fireplace, with drinks! Thanks for being here, Debbie!

  7. Sauerkraut and pork, love it!! Kerry, would you believe I made no lists of any kind this year…I guess I finally learn I never did them anyway!😳😄 enjoyed the post though.

    • No lists? No big, ambitious plans? Good for you! I am truly trying to be less list-driven but I seem to get more so every year. Thanks for the time you’ve spent here this past year, Deb–I so appreciate it! And happy 2016!

  8. I liked this post–especially the part about pork and sauerkraut. I casually mentioned to my children at Christmas that I might make port and sauerkraut for New Years–and they thought it was the funniest tradition they’d ever heard. It’s good to get confirmation from a fellow former Pennsylvanian that this actually is a common tradition in central Pennsylvania.

    • Oh, my goodness, yes! I was stunned, when I started at Penn State and met some local people–I had NEVER heard of pork and sauerkraut in upstate NY! My husband mentions it every New Year and I usually turn him down . . . Have a wonderful year, Sheryl–I’m glad you’re still blogging and coming to visit here!

    • Always new choices! And no need to wait for a new year to make them, if they need making. I hope you have a happy, prosperous, productive year–I’ll be here following along!

  9. My college roommate was horrified I never had heard of, or practiced the tradition of pork and sauerkraut on New year’s day. I’ve embraced the habit since then. Here’s to all the positive things new beginnings can hold.

  10. Well that pork and sauerkraut tradition may explain the mysterious (to me) holiday tradition in Akron, Ohio, of sauerkraut balls. After all, we’re just under 2 hours from the PA border.

  11. Wonderful post. Yes, every day is a new beginning, but some are more beginnery than others. Jim and I are planning to be more spontaneous in 2016. We started early: when presented mid-afternoon with the opportunity, we decided to go out for New Year’s Eve, something we’ve never done before! And yesterday we joined friends at their house to watch a game and a movie, and drink champagne. The friends had made a pork roast with sauerkraut, something we didn’t know was traditional. I looked it up this morning before seeing your post and saw some of the symbolism for it. Pork also is to signify prosperity, and greens also signify paper money. Some dual meanings there.

    My day today: quilting, exercising, and checking two books out of the library. (What great ways to start the year, huh?) The books? One is “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. The other is a book on kindness by Sharon Salzberg. Being spontaneous, being patient, being kind… good goals, yes? 🙂

    • I love your word “beginnery” and the fact that you are PLANNING to be spontaneous! You’ve started your year very well, it sounds, and your goals can’t be beat!

  12. I’ve been thinking about this a lot too! Other celebrations (like ths start of a new season) seem rooted in something real but the new year is completely arbitrary so it’s interesting that we celebrate it and give it so much weight. Also that people make resolutions, thinking a new “beginning” will help them make changes. I still like that tradition of fresh starts and deciding to be “better”, whether it’s a new year or a new week or a new day. I think it allows us to divide up different periods of our life neatly so that we can compartmentalise things and move on. I don’t think it’s too different from thinking things will be “better in the morning”, and any excuuse to be mindful about creating good habits is fine by me! I hope you have a wonderful 2016 🙂

  13. I did not know the symbolism behind the meal of pork and sauerkraut, that’s interesting. There is always bitter with sweet and if we are lucky there is balance. I am hopeful for the new year and I think I am already a member of your club. Have a great day and wonderful first full week of 2016.

  14. I love this post! How right you are.
    I do like the fresh start of a new year, but I wonder how much of that is all the years of either school holidays myself, and then with the boys for the past 18 years. The holidays, end, they return to school and it feels like a fresh start.

    We went the quiet route this year and I was so tired that I fell asleep at 10.

    I’ve never heard about the pork and sauerkraut tradition. I’m a vegetarian so would probably not partake anyway, but it’s good to hear what others are doing and why.

    I’m choosing a word for the year. I’ve done that for a few years now and I like the way it sets the tone.

    Happy 2016!

    • We are always in bed at our normal times on New Years Eve. It seems to make sense to begin a new year well rested! I hope you’ll be writing about your word for the year. I’ve never done it (at least not publicly here) but I love seeing what people come up with!

  15. Lovely meditation on new beginnings. Reaching the top of the hill and continuing on is a good image for the year. We’ve been toiling up the hill this fall and I like to think we will soon reach the summit and start coasting down the other side soon. Cleaning out the family home is an arduous and sometimes melancholy, undertaking, but it’s good to remember that it’s also a new beginning and there are sunrises every day to look forward to.

    I’ve heard often of ham on New Year’s; perhaps it’s that German tradition in another form.

    • That’s the thing about hills (or mountains!)–you will eventually get to the top and start down the other side. I can only imagine the task of cleaning out a family home–lots of trips down memory lane, I’m sure. I hope you get it under control soon!

  16. While I’m not a very superstitious person, I do like the idea of a fresh new start. But since I’ve been very happy with my life the last couple years, I’m not much into making resolutions or hardly any changes really. I try to make the best of every day 🙂
    And we had left overs on New Year’s Day…lol! I’m not sure what that says!

  17. I like the idea of a new beginning, making a list, and getting organized. Getting rid of the old to make room for the new doesn’t have to refer to just things. It can also include attitudes and habits.
    I want to get off to a good start but I’ll pass on the sauerkraut. Happy new year and thank you for taking the time to write so many inspirational and beautiful posts!

    • What a nice thing to say–thank you for being such a supportive blog pal! I usually pass on the sauerkraut, too–I have just never developed a taste for it. I hope your 2016 is creative and fun!

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