New Year’s Eve Tradition

Nationality: American
Primary language: English
Age: 49
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom
Residence: Mercer Island, WA


Each year on New Year’s Eve, one minute before midnight, SD and her family would all grab wooden spoons and pots and pans. They would go outside on their deck and, at midnight, began to bang the spoons on the pots and pans loudly. As they did this, they shouted “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” very loudly. They did this for around one minute before going inside.


SD first remembers participating in this tradition with her father, mother, and siblings when she was about 7. Her father taught this to her and she believes it’s something he learned from his mother or grandmother. SD has perpetuated this tradition and now does it each year with her husband and son. She’s not sure what this tradition means. She finds it really funny and it brings her joy because it’s super obnoxious to neighbors, but you kind of have to laugh.


This family tradition literally rings in the New Year. I think that this tradition serves as a way to celebrate the beginning of the new year with energy and joy, perhaps something which the participants wish to bring with them into the next year. This tradition feels as if it belongs in the “play space” spoken about in Chapter 5 of Oring’s Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction. The author of this chapter, Jay Mechling, notes that the play space allows people to do and say things they wouldn’t normally be able to in everyday society (98). I would argue that the minutes between the old year and the new year are very much a “liminal space,” one in which tons of different folk groups are participating in different traditions. The laws of reality/society sometimes don’t feel as if they apply in liminal spaces, giving them special qualities. While loud screaming and banging pots and pans would normally be grounds for a noise complaint, it isn’t in the liminal space of New Year’s Eve. This family tradition flaunts this, playing with social boundaries in a new way. Additionally, since it is so loud, it invites others to join in the celebration. While other family traditions can be very private and personal, SD’s is loud and in-your-face. I believe this may be a way of extending the joy and silliness of the tradition to others, inviting neighbors and everyone who can hear to have some of the good energy the tradition sends out. This belief is further reinforced by the cry, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”, which is directed at those all around.