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Ringing in the New Year, Family Style

I’m not sentimental, I’m not really into resolutions, and I get grumpy if I stay up late. So it surprises me to find myself looking forward to New Year’s Eve. I enjoy the prospect of a fresh year before me, with all of its joys and messes yet to be lived out. And, along those lines, I also enjoy the blank calendar pages that have not yet succumbed to the dreaded, but inevitable, calendar creep. The days are empty, and full of wonder of the things that will fill them.

I think the thing that has made me enjoy New Year’s Eve the most, though, is the kiddos. Over the years we’ve acquired some new year traditions that focus on reliving the joys and trials of the previous year (so we can remember) and on voicing some dreams and expectations for the coming year (so we can hope). This time of simultaneous looking back and looking forward is unique to New Year’s Eve. And I love doing that with my family.

Even our New Year’s meal is a reflection of this looking back/looking forward-ness. The main dish, Chicken with Orange Glaze, is always on the menu, though it changes slightly from year to year as my diet changes and my cooking skills progress. I made this dish for the Sweetie Pie on New Year’s Eve, just before we started dating. So we eat it every year again, to remind ourselves of our history and to share it with the kiddos.

In the past, I’ve always served it with green beans and wild rice pilaf because that’s the way I served it on that first New Year’s with the Sweetie Pie. But this year I’m changing up the side dishes, partly because of changing diet needs and partly…well, just because. I’m returning to my southern roots and serving up the chicken with some braised greens and black-eyed peas, and a grain-free spice cake for dessert. I’ve even done some thoughtful research and developed some meaningful symbolism to attach to each of the foods.

  • the braised greens represent the hope for provision in the new year. Traditionally greens represent money, but we prefer to teach our children about the value of having “enough” as opposed to desiring more. So, at our table, the greens represent the hope of having “enough” in the coming year.
  • the peas represent the hope of growth and fullness (because they swell when they cook). In the south, black-eyed peas represent prosperity, which isn’t really a moral focus in our home. So I adapted it to something that is.
  • the salt pork in the peas represents forward motion (because pigs root forward when they forage. It’s a stretch, I know.)
  • the spice cake dessert represents the hope of sweetness with just enough spice in the days ahead

Just like our meal, our conversation simultaneously looks forward and back. We ask questions about the kiddos’ favorite things from the previous year–favorite vacation, favorite celebration, favorite place we went as a family, favorite activity–and also about their hopes for the new year–places they’d like to go, people they’d like to see more of, things they’d like to do, new skills they’d like to learn.

One of our favorite looking back traditions is our family photo albums. I spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s uploading, printing, sorting, and archiving our family’s photos from the past year. On New Year’s Eve we all gather around the albums and remember the things we’ve done together. I read somewhere that for children to hold on to their memories, it’s important for them to be able to recall the experiences over and over again, either by telling stories, watching videos, or looking at pictures. I find that reliving the memories of the past year helps the kiddos to hang onto those sweet times a little bit better–especially the younger ones.

We also watch our family video from the year, though this gets more difficult as the digital age encroaches more and more. Our camcorder is really old. Just the fact that I refer to it as a “camcorder” should give you some idea of its age. This looking back tradition is going to have to start looking forward very soon. This year I can’t seem to find a tape for 2013 in any store. But our tradition thus far has been to buy one, 30 minute tape at the beginning of the year. We take the camera around throughout the year, recording little snippets of life together–piano recitals, soccer games, horseback riding, camping trips. Once it’s full, I have it transferred to a DVD and we watch it together as a family.

I’d love to know what your favorite New Year’s traditions are. What do you do as a family to look back and remember, or to look forward and hope?


Print Recipe

Chicken with Orange Glaze

A New Year’s Day tradition in our house.

Source: Betty Crocker Cooking Basics (adapted)

Course: GAPS/Paleo/SCD-Main (Chicken)

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds organic chicken breasts
  • 4 Tbs coconut oil or other cooking fat
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder or other starch thickener
  • 1 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade fruit juice sweetened
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos or tamari

Directions

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken on both sides until no longer pink in the middle. (Alternately, you can cook the chicken, covered with foil, in a 350 degree oven until done through, then brown in a skillet or grill pan.)
  2. While the chicken is cooking, mix the arrowroot and mustard in a small bowl. Stir in the orange juice, marmalade and coconut aminos, mixing well. Pour the orange mixture into a small saucepan and heat gently until boiling. Continue to boil about 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Pour the glaze over the chicken to serve.

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