KE: “Every New Year’s Eve, my mom would pin money to me because it was believed that what you had on you at the new year is what the new year would bring you.”
I: “How much money would she give you?”
KE: “Like a dollar. But they would literally pin it to me. Her parents taught her as a tradition. We had a party on New Years most years and all my relatives kept waking me up to give me money. But I just wanted to sleep!”
The informant’s mother’s family was from Ireland and Whales. The informant’s mother was born here as a second generation American. The informant did not feel the practice brought particular good fortune, but that it was meaningful for her mother to give her something to go into the New Year with.
This falls in line with the practice of gift-giving on New Years as explored on pg. 39 of Anne Ross’ 2001 Folklore of Whales (The History Press). While Ross’ text focuses on gifts outside of money, I think this story exemplifies how the tradition transferred to the United States. The emphasis went from gift-giving to money-giving. Money is not as personal as a chosen item, yet the adapted tradition also made it so that the same gift was given to all (money). The tradition could be seen as a way in which parents could give children some insurance for the future, which in a way makes the practice a bit dark, as though the children might not have their parents to rely on soon. At the same time, the act of pinning the money makes it a bit silly and also seem as though the money is a proud factor of the family’s life and/or worthy to ring in the New Year with as a symbol of good fortune.