In past times New Year’s Day wasn’t much celebrated in Ireland. On New Year’s Eve, however, many people employed folk charms to ward off hunger in the coming year. Some recommended eating a big meal on New Year’s Eve to set a pattern of consumption for the year ahead. Others suggested knocking a loaf of bread or a cake against house or barn doors, and reciting a bit of verse that welcomed happiness and plenty and rejected hunger and want. First footing, another old New Year’s custom, is still practiced in Ireland. A custom whereby the household’s luck for the year is determined by the first person to step over the threshold after the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. In recent years the government made New Year’s Day a holiday. Now, more and more people celebrate New Year’s Eve by staying up late, drinking, and going to parties.
In Wilmington, we do similar celebrating by attending parties and going to First Night celebrations. Many of the Irish-American families of Wilmington still hold with the first footing custom as well as it is customary to begin the New Year with a clean house. Thoroughly cleaning the house before New Year’s Day is a good omen for the year ahead. We still like to have our pantries full on the New Year’s Eve. As it is the hope that the coming year will be equally as plentiful. Families still gather at the table for a big meal before heading out for parties or the ring in the New Year together at home.
A typical Irish –American New Year’s Day Meal in Wilmington would be a menu of corned beef and kale on New Year’s Day for good luck and prosperity in the New Year. Some families have the typical corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes as they would on St. Patrick’s Day. However, for the New Year’s Eve feast, it is one of surf and turf. The meal starts with Oysters or shrimp, followed salmon and pork pie, greens, fruit, and cakes. Of Course there is also whiskey, sparking wine and port for the drinking.
Potato Crusted Oysters on the half shell
6 large oysters’
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes
4 Tablespoon butter
Carefully shuck the oysters, remove the meat, and discard the upper shells. Reserve the lower shells with their cup-shaped indentations. Pat the oysters dry on paper towels.
Beat together the egg and the water. Dredge the oysters first in the flour, then in the egg mixture, and finally in the potato flakes. In a nonstick sauté pan, heat the butter until it is sizzling. Quickly add the oysters and brown them first on one side, then the other. Remove them from the pan, and place them on a paper towel for a moment. Transfer the oysters to their shells and serve immediately.
1 pt Stewing oysters
1/4 c Butter
Salt; to taste Pepper; to taste
1 Egg; beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degree (f) Butter casserole dish. Layer casserole with half the oysters, dot with butter. Season with salt & pepper; sprinkle with crumbs. Repeat; pour egg over all. Bake 30 minutes or until done. Makes 4 servings.