Posted By Bill Payer on Dec 31, 2021 | 0 comments

New Years Eve in Colonial America wasn’t quite the spectacle it is today. No Ball drop. And despite rumors, Dick Clark wasn’t around to emcee the ceremony.

Like most celebrations in those simpler, yet tougher, times the festivities centered on food. And what was the celebratory food depended on where the colonists had emigrated from. Long before there were bowl games there was the wassail bowl.


The website Colonial Quills has a good description. CLICK HERE

For lots more detail on the Lowcountry tradition of hoppin’ john, check out the 2020 piece by WCBD-TV’s Cait Przetak CLICK HERE

Here’s somewhat of a surprise…..January 1st wasn’t really New Year’s Day in Charleston until 1752. “The first day of January marks the beginning of a new calendar year in Charleston, as it does in most other places in the world, but this holiday did not exist in the early days of our community, or anywhere in the colonies that became the United States of America. For the first 81 years of life here in the English colony of South Carolina, we officially celebrated the start of the new year on March 25th. More than just a curious old tradition, this is a very important fact that should be familiar to anyone interested in the history of Charleston, or anyone studying the history of their own family. In early America, the concept of dating the new year from January 1st was quite literally a foreign concept. The adoption of this new “new year” practice in 1752 was part of a remarkable cultural shift that had lasting repercussions in Charleston and the United States in general.”

For the rest of the story on the Charleston Public Libraries excellent “Charleston Time Machine” CLICK HERE

And one of the most powerful New Years Eve rituals began in 1862 as enslaved Blacks waited for the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect.

Learn lots more about a tradition that continues today at our website blog article Emancipation Watch Night. CLICK HERE


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