Shotguns Roaring, Pans Clanging: New Year’s Eve Traditions

On New Year’s Eve, our way into the new year was with a whole lot of clamor and clatter.

My Dad would, as was his way, fire off weapons. A shotgun in specific. As many pulls of the trigger as the coming year demanded, I suppose. This wasn’t just a show for the kids, either. Even when I was older and not living at home, he’d usually call me sometime around midnight to wish me a happy new year. He’d tell me that, yep, he still got out the shotgun, fired off a few into the sky. He might’ve been alone but the tradition still held. It still mattered — I don’t know why, but that’s often the way with traditions, isn’t it? You do them because you do them.

I like to think he was letting the approaching year know what it had coming if it decided to fuck with the old man. Kind of a, “Give me your best shot, New Year! Do your worst — that is, if you don’t mind getting a face full of bird shot, motherfucker!” CHOOM CHOOM CHOOM.

Or maybe he was scaring off demons. Or winged monkeys. Who the hell knows? Tradition was tradition, and tradition meant shotgun firing heavenward.

(One day I wondered if we’d see some colossal goose — like, the size of a catamaran — drop out of the sky and crash into our driveway. “Finally,” the old man would say with a fire in his eyes. “Been hunting that honking sonofabitch year after year.” He’d suck in a satisfied breath and then add: “We eat well tonight.”)

My grandmother — Mom-Mom — would bang pots and pants and demand that we, the grandchildren, do the same. I spent many a NYE at her place, waiting for the ball to drop, waiting for the clanging of the pans.

Once more, a tradition of noise: frighten away the bugbears and goblins of the coming year.

Funny thing is, traditions of this somewhat lesser holiday aren’t really pinned down. Christmas comes with a series of traditions shared widely — but NYE traditions always feel a bit looser, a more less universal, which is actually kind of awesome. What you do is what you do, for whatever reason you do it.

Which leads me to ask:

What do you do on NYE? I don’t just mean this year — I mean, what do you (or did you once) do every year? What traditions might you bring in order to herald in this squalling baby called “2011?”

18 responses to “Shotguns Roaring, Pans Clanging: New Year’s Eve Traditions”

  1. Ahh, the banging of pots and pans! When we were little our parents used to take us to their friends house for NYE. The very best part of the night was the whirlwind that took place from 11:55 – 12:01 am. It started with the mad rush to make sure we all had some pans in hand. There would be 5 or 6 of us fighting over who got what pots, pans, and who got stuck having to use a wooden spoon and a tupperware because one of the boys snagged 4 pans at once. Then we would race onto the porch and see who could be the most obnoxious and disturb the most neighbors (at the time we were completely unaware that it’s not really that disturbing when all the neighbors are awake celebrating the new year coming in too). Then at 12:01 the adults would take our pots and pans, bundle us up and pack us into the car for the short drive home. But those glorious 6 minutes? We looked forward to them all year!

  2. Despite living in suburbia, there was still a good amount of skyward gunfire come midnight.

    Unfortunately, in a town littered with power lines and transformers, we would typically stay inside and wait for the power or cable to cut out. Apparently, those looked like good targets if you were drunk enough.

    Also, there was that pesky gravity thing. Bullets come down eventually.

    • @Tome:

      No doubt. Anybody firing rifles or pistols up in the air needs to remember that those things are going to come down. (Though, generally not with any harm done. But sometimes.)

      Shotguns, though, won’t offer that problem. Y’know, just in case you feel like firing off a few. 🙂

      — c.

  3. We really had no (and now have no) traditions for New Year’s. As a little thing, my parents used it as an excuse to drink with their buddies. So there was lots of soda and junk food. Then, around 8-ish they turned into old people and we all pretty much slept through the New Year. Nowadays the husband and I (similarly tradition-less) sit around, watch movies, and barely register when midnight strikes. Because we’re boring like that.

    Though now I wish I lived somewhere I could go out and fire my shotgun into the sky.

  4. My husband’s family has a huge bonfire every NYE. I have asthma. Needless to say, I don’t go.

    Now, having grown up and still living in the South, we have a definite New Year’s Day tradition: black-eyed peas and hog jowl (don’t look at me like that – it’s just like bacon…chewy, fatty bacon). It’s for good luck and prosperity. We make a big pot of them and a pan of cornbread and eat them all day. The stores are usually sold out of the bags of dried peas by NYE.

  5. I’ve been running this same website for, well, years. It started out as this fun hobby back when I was in middle school. Now it’s basically a full time job.

    Way back when, in the Early Days, I decided it would be fun to do a sort of “Expansion” to the game on New Years Day. We’d stay up all night on New Years Eve working on things and at midnight (or first thing in the morning after waking up) and then the first of the year was brought in with it’s own kind of clanging of the pans – for a role playing game, this usually means new character types, new areas to explore, sweet new features. It was a great idea at the time.

    This is my 9th New Years Eve doing this. This year marks our 10th anniversary. Ten years of this. I’ve never really had a New Years Eve party since then, and the years that I did hang out with more than just family came hand in hand with spending the whole day of the 31st on the computer and waking up at the crack of dawn to turn on all the new exciting things.

    Except this year? I’m doing it in my apartment that I share with my boyfriend I met on the same website. My best friend and co-administrator who I also met on the site is coming over to join us…as well as another member and one of our former moderators. It’ll be a bon-a-fied Nerd Party.

    …now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work. 🙂

  6. Something, something, fireworks. I think that’s really been my family’s only tradition for NYE. Of course there was always the whole “watch the picture box” thing, but most of us would fall asleep before midnight–the young’ns because it was late, the adults because they were drunk.

    If I had a shotgun, I’d be firing it in the air tonight. I want to start a new tradition now that I’m having my own holidays (instead of spending them with the larger family,) but NYE is just one of those excuse-to-drink holidays for me. And I revel in it.

  7. Pots and pans here, too. My sister and I looked forward to New Years Eve not because it meant staying up until midnight and not because it meant a new year. It meant making a ton of noise, and we were always in for that!

    We had one pot that was sooooooooo dented, but we kept it anyway. It served as the puke pot when we had stomach bugs.

    I always fought to get the puke pot because it had the best sound. Looking back, and thinking about the gallons of vomit it saw each year, it was the perfect vessel with which to purge an old year and ring in a new one.

  8. Back in the Netherlands, everyone in the neighborhood would come together in one area to start a bonfire. It was good for two purposes: to keep warm, and to deal with all the Christmas trees.

    Although to say every year? No, fire departments and police are working together to stop anyone from trying this ever again these days, so you don’t see many bonfires because they’re too dangerous. Naturally causing bigger accidents to happen ever since. Not to mention the amount of cars that are being set on fire these days.

    This year? Just me and my roommate and lots of alcohol. Considering we both like games, board games included, I was thinking of turning chess into a drinking game.

  9. From what I understand, it’s illegal to shoot like that here in Poland: there were cases of hunters shooting at angles and killing people in nearby villages. Man shoots, the Lord carries the bullets as the saying goes.

    As for me I will be celebrating in the traditional Polish way: drinking lots, complaining about the past year, complaining about the cold and watching the news about the multiple fireworks related accidents throughout the country.

  10. as I told you on twitter yesterday, our tradition consists of drunken late night dungeons and dragons, and started about 9 years ago, when the rpga was handing out bonus xp if you sent in a picture of your table playing at midnight. Of course, we were all over that. the next year rather than hitting the bars and dealing wtih amateur hour( same reason I don’t go out on St. Patrick’s day, and only rarely go out on Halloween), we would game again. 9 years, numerous characters, and an expansion to two tables, and now pregens only, we’re still doing it. most of the noise is generated by failed rolls, and rat bastard GMs( why yes, I am running a table in a few hours, why do you ask;))

    happy new year all, and be safe tonight

  11. My kid got fireworks for Christmas (Ssh, blame Santa!) but the laws here are dumb as well, Remy. She can’t have a sparkler in the driveway where if anything goes wrong I’ll have the hose–no, we have to go outside city limits. Which is, HELLO, desert. An excellent place for fireworks, yes.

    *ahem* Had to get that off my chest.

    I had a friend who flushed the toilet at midnight every year. EVERY year, so apparently he had no good ones–one reason he is past-tense on the friend thing.

    I’ve decided to formalize the “I deserve better” this year. Just posted my “what I’m kicking to the curb in 2011” post on my own blog. ( )

  12. I never had any growing up, but with a kid you get to start new ones. We’re not party people anyway, in that to us having to find one’s way home after a night of drinking doesn’t seem like fun. We’re also too tired every night to stay up late.

    Livvie wanted to make noise last night, so we did. Banged pots while walking our street, went into our neighbor’s house (she joined us for it) and banged pots at her husband to “annoy” him. Came home. Got Livvie to bed finally.

    We tried. At 11pm we both conked out.

    The champagne still sits in the fridge. I think it’s asking to transform into mimosas.

  13. Aside from possibly eating Black Eyed Peas, my ritual for NYE seems to be sinus hell and too sick to go to any parties. lol.

    Did read an article posted this morning about 1000 birds falling from the sky in Arkansas. Your Dad shooting the shotgun made me think of it as physical trauma is a believed cause and that from natives there shooting guns for New Years. Heh heh heh (Made me think of the birds dropping in FlashForward. Ooooo!) 😛

    Happy New Year!

  14. I have two versions of New Year’s Day tradition, since I grew up in the south but my family is from up north – lots of lucky food: black-eyed peas & greens & pork (for the southern version of the New Year’s Day meal) and saurkraut & carrot “coins” for the northerners’ good luck. A bit before midnight we would hide money outside, then after midnight (or whenever you remembered the next day) we would bring it inside, to symbolize bringing in the big bucks during the new year. Also, there’s the sparkling grape juice toast (for the kiddies) & kisses at midnight, & don’t forget to follow the tradition of having your first visitor of the new year be a tall, dark, & handsome someone… for getting another kind of lucky.

    • Where are your Northern Relatives from? This is my family’s New Year’s tradition, too- Hiding the coins before midnight. My mother made us eat at least a pinch of sauerkraut the next day before we were permitted to bring in our coins to symbolize luck for the New Year. I’m from Fayette County, PA in southwestern Pennsylvania. My family’s background is Equal parts of G erman-English-ScotsIrish. I didnt know any other family outside of my relatives who did this.

  15. I’m pissed that everyone and (I’m not in the south, I’m in az) buys up all the black eyed peas from every store. I’ve eaten them every new year of my life. It’s a family tradition. Now thanks to the Internet everyone’s trying to jump on the good luck bandwagon! It doesn’t work if u haven’t done it all your life and hasn’t been a passed down family tradition! So stop buying up all the damn beans!!!!

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