COLUMN: A New Year’s tradition
Parties, fireworks and football games are some of the ways today’s families celebrate the New Year’s holiday.
They’re a far cry from the traditional “dress up and go serenading” excursions we used to usher in the new year when I was a boy.
Festive parties with dress-up clothes and rich food were reserved for the well-to-do folks in rural east central where I grew up.
Shooting fireworks was not a viable option since they weren’t sold in Alabama. In order to get them, a trip to Tallapoosa, Ga., was required. Not many folks had transportation for the 50-mile trip and most couldn’t afford them.
Not much attention was paid to college football games because the only access to them was the radio. TV sets made their appearance after World War II, but we lived 90 miles from the nearest transmission station. Only three channels were available and images were badly distorted by snow on the screen.
Serenading on New Year’s Eve was not taken lightly. Us kids started working on our disguises weeks ahead. A painted paper sack with cutouts for eyes, nose and mouth was commonly used. A stocking pulled over the head also worked well. Adult-size clothes were also frequently used.
The object of the disguises was to ensure that no one outside of your family could identify who you were.
We would anxiously wait for darkness to descend before heading out to visit our closest neighbor a quarter of a mile away. Our path would take us to homes as far as two miles from where we lived.
Our neighbors welcomed us warmly and gave each a close look before guessing who we were. Afterward, they would give us treats. Some offered popcorn. Others parched peanuts and others a chocolate-filled teacake or an apple or orange.
The event also gave us the opportunity to meet up other serenaders.
We’d try to guess who they were and share our experiences of the evening.
Back home, we’d empty our pockets of the bounty we’d received, sample some of it and listen carefully for the stroke of midnight. If we were lucky, we’d hear the boom of a stick of dynamite to signal the onset of another year. Happy New Year to everyone.
Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.