Whether Silvester, Hogmanay, or New Year’s Eve

This is the Gluck Schwein, or Germany’s good luck pig, a symbol guaranteeing good fortune to New Year’s revelers there.  The German celebration is called Silvester as the arrival of the New Year coincides with the feast day on the 31st of Pope Sylvester I.  Germans will be eating fish, lentils or other dried legumes, and sauerkraut.  Small beans look like coins, and cabbage is leafy like bills, so eating these ensures prosperity in the new year.  Germans generally stay away from eating anything with wings on Silvester (i.e. chicken or goose) as luck might take flight like the poultry.

The Gluck Schwein may be edible (chocolate or marzipan) or inedible (brass); either way, if you have one, luck too will be on your side.  My marzipan pig flew to me direct from Munich a couple of weeks ago.  The malleable marzipan face got slightly flattened in my husband’s suitcase but I’m counting on that not mattering.  I’ve named the pig Sylvester, and he’ll sit on my desk this year, watching over things.  If all goes as legend has it, he may bring me luck…or at least remind me to make my own luck by making wise decisions, doing good work, and being kind to others.

Though I’ve been to Germany a couple of times, I’ve never been there over Silvester.  I’ve never been to Scotland’s Hogmanay either, although it is the New Year celebration of my mother’s ancestors.  Hogmanay is on my list to experience someday.  I’d like to examine my connection to a people who use New Year’s Eve to practice fireball swinging, i.e. constructing round chicken wire cages filled with flammable objects that they actually set afire and then swing by non-flammable rope.

Bouts of rowdiness aside, the Scots make gracious houseguests at the holiday (the first person over the threshold in the New Year – called first-footing – brings a gift of coal to heat the house), and endorse good food and drink at their gatherings (bringing also shortbread, Black Bun, and copious amounts of whisky when they visit).

Usually, I do nothing outside of the home on New Year’s Eve.  Because of the cold, I’m not a First Night person.  Because of the hour, I’m known for begging off early, meaning the champagne comes out around 7.  Yes, I realize all this makes me sound like a real dud, and maybe I am.  A quiet, early to bed, homebody dud.  This has not always been so.

Two New Year celebrations stand out.  One, in Chicago in the mid-80s, was spent at B.L.U.E.S. Chicago on Halsted, listening to Big Time Sarah belt out a few tunes.  When midnight arrived, glasses were passed from hand to hand, bottles opened, and everyone packing the house was served a glass of Dom Yago to toast.  Dom Yago may have been the worst bubbly I’ve tasted before or since, but it hardly mattered.  That was a fun night spent in the company of my husband, his visiting brother, and his brother’s friend.

In the mid 90s, I and my family spent quality time around a late night bonfire in Iceland as boats and salt cod-drying frames and all the locals’ personal detritus burned.  Children as young as 4 or 5 carried lit car flares as sparklers.  Standing close to a small, unsupervised child waving a lit car flare…never let it be said I don’t know how to live on the edge.

This year once again it will be home, family, potato pancakes with eggs, and a nice glass of sparkling anything but Dom Yago.  Unless one of the following local activities tempts me out of the house.

With my best wishes to my readers for a wonderful holiday to be enjoyed just the way you like it, and a new year filled with people and experiences and luck of your own making, here are the North Shore Picks of the New Year Weekend, Amesbury edition:


For 32 years, The Amesbury Playhouse has hosted its New Year’s Eve Gala.  A performance of “Revenge of the Comedy Thieves” begins at 9 p.m., followed by a champagne toast at midnight, and dancing and music until 2 a.m.  (Cocktail hour begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner.)

The Amesbury Playhouse is located at 194 Main St., Amesbury.  Tickets cost $80 and can be purchased by phoning 978-388-9444.


The Actors Studio is a space to showcase new works and experimental arts, and Friday night will offer artists working on all sorts of projects to highlight their talents, whether by performing a scene from a play, a dance, or even sharing a newly written song. The show will include song, dance, short plays, and skits by local artists, and will begin at 9:30 p.m., concluding at midnight. There will be a party and sing-along following the show, for those who wish to stay out longer.

The Actors’ Studio is located at the Tannery, Mill 1, Suite 5, Newburyport.  Tickets are $9, and can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling the Actors Studio at 978-465-1229.


The annual New Year’s Eve Sacred Circle Dance will return once again to the Belleville Congregational Church in Newburyport where revelers can welcome in 2011 with dance, song, ritual and meditation.  Festivities will include a potluck. No experience is necessary; each dance will be taught.

Participants should enter the Belleville Congregational Church on the corner of High and Chapel streets, Newburyport.  The evening of song, dance, ritual and meditation runs from 9 p.m. to midnight.  Admission is $15, and reservations are requested. Call Ellen Kennedy at 978-465-8604 or visit dancingspiral@aol.com to reserve your space.

And now from the rest of the Consortium:

And some more wonderful things from the Cape Ann part of the North Shore from Joey C at Good Morning Gloucester

Lynn Happens is on vacation this week, but read here what Seth has to say about that.

Our favorite Two Palaverers, Rob and Laura, weigh in here.

Check out what’s in store for families here on North Shore Kid.

©2010  Jane A. Ward

Auld Lang Syne

by Robert Burns


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.