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Garden Lifestyle

Welcoming the New Year

Take advantage of the nice weather and get out there and walk or gather kindling or get an outdoor chore done.

Lentil soup is a tradtional dish served on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day in many countries around the world.
Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Here it is the end of December and we are having pleasant, sunny days where I can go outside with just a jacket and no hat or gloves. Why today, I even hung the laundry out on the line. Take advantage of the nice weather and get out there and walk or gather kindling or get an outdoor chore done.

Some benefits of being out in nature are increased energy and physical activity, rebooting of the mind as well as your entire being, which is calming, restorative and stimulating. I do take the opportunity to walk just about every day, even if it is cold and I have to bundle up; on those days I don’t stay out as long-generally when my fingers inside my gloves start to hurt-it is time to come in.

This time of year, after the bustle of the holidays and just before the new year is also a good time to try and relax a bit, indulge in that afternoon nap or reading those books that you haven’t had time for. Or peruse some of those seed catalogs that are coming in and dream of gardens to come. Take some time to just be. Do some things that you want to do that will nourish or inspire you. It is a good time to reflect on this past year-things you have accomplished-and what you want to get rid of.

I’m also preparing for the new year ahead. I’ve filled in the calendars; I still enjoy wall calendars and have one in the kitchen, office and yes, the bathroom. I like the photos and artwork, as well as the ritual of turning the page each month to a new month. Alongside these calendars, I read the Old Farmer’s Almanac and the Llewellyn’s Moon Sign Book and Llewellyn’s Sun Sign Book, so I can keep up planting cycles, days getting longer and where the moon is.

Lots of folks go out in crowds to welcome the new year, however I prefer to stay at home with a cozy woodstove going, candlelight, a tasty libation or two, and some comfort food with my choice of music or movie if desired. There are numerous traditional foods for the new year. My grandmother used to always make lentils and so I often do too. Here is a recipe for one of my favorite lentil soups: /item/11769/lentil-and-greens-soup. Sometimes, I make spicy Moroccan Lentils to serve with couscous as an alternative.

While many celebrate the custom of lentil soup, it is the black-eyed pea which is prepared in the Southern U.S. It might be cooked into a soup with a ham hock and served with a mess of greens and cornbread. Although a very popular recipe is for Hoppin’ John, which is made with black-eyed peas, tomatoes, corn and often, okra. Whatever the bean or green–you can’t go wrong for great flavor and nutrition with this combo.

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is called Hogmanay, which they celebrate for days and shortbread is a featured treat. In Spain, they eat 12 grapes for good luck in the 12 seconds before midnight, while in Brazil they eat 7 grapes and 7 pomegranate seeds, and in the Philippines they eat 12 round fruits (symbolizing coins) for prosperity. Soba noodles (the year crossing-over noodle) are eaten in Japan just before midnight, while the French consume decadent foods like foie gras, oysters, lobster or escargot. In Australia, they take picnics to the firework celebrations and in Canada, folks often go fishing together. Many cultures have circular-shaped foods like yeast breads, doughnuts or pretzels; in Denmark they make towers of marzipan doughnuts. In Ireland, they bang loaves of bread against the walls of their cottages to get rid of evil spirits and invite good luck in.

The traditional beverage for sometime has been champagne, although way back when, our ancestors toasted with wassail or meade. When the clock strikes midnight, it is traditional to kiss the one you are with, shout “Happy New Year” and make a lot of noise with noisemakers, bells, horns or fireworks, (my prudent grandfather in all seriousness would shoot one shot out of his revolver into the night sky and as a small child I found it thrilling) and then folks around the globe sing the famous Scottish tune “Auld Lang Syne”.

Of course, I must mention New Year’s resolutions. Many people make them and many break them. A most popular resolution is to lose weight, which is a hard one to keep. Let all of us resolve this year to make this world a better place; we can start with small things to help our Mother Earth and support the environment like garden organically and compost, volunteer in a garden, recycling more, do not buy things wrapped in plastic, do not litter and do pick up trash, plant trees, share rides with friends, volunteer for or give to local charities who are helping others, share your knowledge, teach kids good things, etc.

Here’s to 2020–a happy and healthy new year filled with peace, love and thoughtfulness!

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