As the eternal birth canal of la Madre del Tiempo opens and the fresh life that is Baby New Year slides forth, covered in amniotic confetti and crying tears of “Auld lang syne!” to whomever is within champagne earshot, we as a collective people will coo over said infant and pinch its rosy cheeks while whispering a silent prayer for a safe, healthy and prosperous next 365 days, hoping they will be far better than the last few were.
To double-down on this need for a sense of temporal betterment, many of us will take part in various edible superstitions that are meant to instill, if only for the next few hours or so, the undying belief that the universe’s Etch-a-Sketch has been shook and the future is currently unwritten, if only thanks to a full tummy of blessed foods.
In Germany, for example, marzipan Glücksschwein—good-luck pigs—may be eaten, while in the far East, when them midnight bells chime, the Japanese will down a massive bowl of toshikoshi soba noodles to welcome in the New Year. And, living in America, who among us hasn’t stomached a steaming crock-pot of black-eye peas right after giving a loved one a kiss as the ball dropped on Times Square?
Within my Mexican-American family, however, it was all about tamales and it was always a very big deal.
Fresh from (more than likely) some sort of Catholic mass and running on little to no sleep, my abuela and all my tias, as well as other assorted older women who I’m somehow related to but have only ever met in passing, would meet up about 4 a.m. and spend hours putting what had to be thousands of these masa-based miracles together so when we’d wake up for breakfast, they’d be there waiting in a steaming embarrassment of pork-filled riches next to a freshly-made cup of that Mexican hot chocolate with the creepy old lady on the box.
Of course they would also be our lunch, our snack, our dinner, our dessert and, as the clock rolled over come twelve midnight, our ultimate sacrifice to both the past and present, a carpet-staining orgy of corn husks and red grease that rivaled any debaucherous celebration concurrently being held by the Illuminati down in the bowels of the Vatican, only with a far better soundtrack, sin mentiras.