New Year’s Tradition

“Pop-Pop whose uh yeah was Grandma J’s father when he was uh…uh I don’t know he was uh he was definitely a child uh his—his father had him jump, uh get up on a table and and jump at at midnight when the new century, you know the year 1900 happened. And so so when when the year 2000 happened you know we were in Santa Barbara and that’s where we jumped off the uh th-th-the water breaker there and that’s where Henry’s friend you know turned his ankle or whatever. [collector interjection: “Oh, yeah, I remember that”] Yeah bu-but it was it was like we were jumping into the new century uh like Pop-Pop had. He always would talk about that so—so that’s sort of like a family story.”

My informant tells this story every year on New Years Eve, December 31st, before the clock strikes midnight, chiming in the New Year. He tells this story both to remember the positive family experience in the year 2000 and also to remember his Grandfather fondly. When he presented the tradition to his family in 2000, he hoped that by practicing the tradition his family would feel connected to their past. He also sees the tradition as an expression of excitement for the New Year. He says that the family participates in the tradition at the turn of the century, rather than every New Year, because this is a heightened moment of excitement; the future and the positive changes it can bring feel larger in this moment than any other New Year. Younger members of his family, however, have expanded the tradition and now jump off of tables every New Year’s Eve, when they are all together.

I agree with my informant that the jumping off of a table at New Year expresses excitement for the year to come. I only add that it also reflects a future oriented perspective. The family’s intense excitement for the future, as symbolized by the jump, and their movement forward suggest a desire to move into the future because it will be better than the past. The tradition does also unify the family members, which might explain why the younger members who live far away from each other participate in the tradition every year.