Here’s to you, 2022

Published 7:33 pm Monday, December 27, 2021

Last year for my column for the New Year, I wrote about the traditions my family and neighbors had while I was growing up here in Washington.  To this day, my family and friends still talk about how steadfastly folks held to these traditions.  As an adult now, I keep a few of them for tradition’s sake and I love sharing them with my children and grandchildren especially those concerning food.

I received so much feedback and requests last year to share more of the New Year traditions here in Washington that I knew about, I promised I would do the same for the New Year 2022 which will be upon us in a few days.

One tradition was that no one could visit a house in my community on New Year’s Day until a man who did not live in the house came and walked through the entire house, blessing it. Then after that, all visitors were welcomed. This tradition is said to have its roots in slavery where slave owners checked every cabin to make sure no one had escaped during New Year’s Eve.

January 1st was known in Washington as ‘Hiring Day’ where enslaved people were hired out for a year to work on building houses or other structures, ships or work in other businesses here in Washington, or to work on other plantations.  This tradition was also based on a Scottish tradition called ‘First Footing’ where a man walked thru the house before anyone else was allowed on New Year’s Day.

Foods that was served every year without fail were ‘Hoppin John’ (black-eyed peas, rice and pork.) collard greens representing money, corn bread (represented gold/money) fish (promised you’d be swimming in prosperity,) and cake (for a sweet year.)  Eating foods that were round like hoe cakes, pancakes, biscuits or doughnuts immediately after midnight on New Year’s Eve ensured good luck.

Other traditions included taping a dollar bill over the front door or under a door mat to ensure money would be coming in the house all year long.

Our family opened the back door to let the old year out and opened the front door to let the New Year in based on an old Irish tradition, while some families opened all the doors and windows.

Some people sprinkled sugar on their front porches or steps to ensure a sweet year while some families placed cabbage leaves on every windowsill and door frame to ensure money and prosperity would make its way into the house.

Families made sure their pantries and cupboards were filled with groceries for the new year to ensure prosperity.

Some families made sure each member wore new shoes on New Year’s Day to walk in added blessings in the new year.

Some families made noise with firecrackers, whistles and sometimes shot a gun to scare off evil spirits who could threaten the New Year while other families remained quiet on New Year’s Eve to pray.

Some people packed a suitcase as if they were going somewhere to ensure their prosperity would travel with them all year.

While these traditions were fun, here is what I know is true, this is what I know for sure will be bring peace and prosperity this year to our hearts and souls. Being kind to one another and treating each other with dignity, goodness, respect and love will truly bring a blessing to all. Our world needs this blessing.


Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-founder and co-executive director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.