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12-30-02: New Year's preparations underway
The Daily Standard

    Preparations are under way for the arrival of 2003, with area residents planning to welcome the new year in traditional fashion.
    Mention New Year's Day in these parts and people of German descent quickly envision plates laden with sauerkraut and some form of pork ranging from sausage to spareribs. People who hail from the Sout  claim black-eyed peas ensure good luck during the next 12 months.
    Employees at Robert Winner Sons Inc. in Osgood have prepared 1,620 pounds of sauerkraut in keeping with a 10-year tradition.
    "You've got to have good cabbage in order to have good sauerkraut," said Jay Winner, manager of the meat market and grocery store located at 45 W. Main St. "We struck the jackpot this year."
    The Michigan supplier claims cabbage needs to freeze just prior to picking in order to yield firm, crisp heads. Temperatures dipped below freezing shortly before workers filled the Winner order.
    On Oct. 22, the basement of the Knights of St. John Hall in Maria Stein was transformed into a cabbage-processing plant. Workers used meat slicers to shred mounds of cabbage. Then using a tried-and-true formula of one-half cup salt to 10 pounds of shredded cabbage, they filled six large plastic barrels. The work detail was planned to coincide with changes in the moon.
    "You have to make sauerkraut under a full moon," Winner explained. "Don't ask me why but it has something to do with the moon's gravitational pull.
    "There are longtime farmers in these parts who claim they wouldn't set a fence at any other time than during a full moon because it draws down better. I guess the same goes for sauerkraut."
    Salt draws natural moisture from the cabbage during the fermentation process. The mixture begins "to work"  within a week, sending liquid bubbling from beneath protective covers.  Taste tests are conducted randomly. Initially, the mixture tastes like salty cabbage but gradually the distinctive sour flavor begins to emerge.
    "Some people think vinegar is added to produce the sour taste," Winner said. "Nothing goes in our sauerkraut except salt, cabbage and plenty of elbow grease. We list all the ingredients right here on the label."
    The sauerkraut sells for $1.19 per pound in plastic containers ranging from one to five pounds. Customers began purchasing the seasonal favorite the week before Christmas. However, the two busiest days will be today and Tuesday. The largest sale thus far was to a woman who purchased 60 pounds. She intends to repackage the kraut and give it as gifts to her children.
    Store personnel expect to sell nearly 2,000 pounds of sausage - fresh and smoked - to accompany the sauerkraut. Other popular pork offerings include spareribs, chops, loins, roasts and backbones.
    Winner isn't sure how the pork and sauerkraut tradition evolved as a New Year's Day tradition.
    "People consider it a good luck charm of sorts - a way to guarantee a happy and profitable new year," he added. "Why tempt fate by changing the menu?"
    Jeanette Eldridge of St. Marys will enjoy sausage and sauerkraut sandwiches during a New Year's Eve party at the home of her friend, Maxine Lee. However, Eldridge's Jan. 1 menu generally includes a taste of her Southern heritage.
    The Tennessee native usually cooks dried shuck beans and pork. However, the beans did not fare well in the garden this year.
    "I'm going to try and get some from people I know in Lima but I'm not holding my breath," Eldridge said. "A lot of folks in the South consider black-eyed peas good luck. I don't really care for the flavor; shuck beans are so much better. I figure one dried lentil is as good as another."
    Coldwater residents Julio and Christa Cervantes will mark the New Year with an authentic Mexican dinner. Their young children also look forward to the meal prepared by their grandmother, Elsa Cervantes of Celina.
    "I'm not sure about the names of all the dishes," Christa Cervantes said. "But my mother-in-law certainly prepares quite a feast."
    The family visited Mexico one year and she was amazed to see people celebrating the arrival of the new year with fireworks.
    "Everybody had their own little display," she said. "It reminded me of the Fourth of July here in the United States."
    Charles and Rita Heinl of Maria Stein always marked New Year's Eve with their neighbors. Even the children went along, eagerly awaiting the stroke of midnight and a celebration that included noisemakers and other party favors. The tradition has continued since at least 1955, when the Heinls moved into their new home.
    The children are grown with families of their own and neighbors have come and gone over the years. However, the party continues during the holiday season. This year's event took place on Sunday starting at Mike Homan's house and ending with supper at the Jiggs Thobe residence.
    Ron Boess, manager of the Celina Wine Store, expects to sell plenty of bubbly today and Tuesday. However, it won't be champagne.
    "Asti is the big seller here," he said. "Champagne is not that popular in
these parts. We'll sell three times more sparkling wine than champagne."
    Sweet liquers, such as flavored schnapps, draw considerable interest during the holiday season. Customers also request beer and assorted soft drinks.
    The store also expects a surge of requests for pizza and buffalo wings - popular finger foods at parties with guests of all ages.
    "This year we will have the equivalent of two New Year's observances," Boess predicted. "First comes the traditional one and then comes the Fiesta Bowl on Friday night. There are scores of Ohio State Buckeye fans in this area, and they will celebrate the national championship game big time."
    You can't have a New Year's Eve party without hats, noisemakers, confetti and balloons. Adam Lange, a clerk at Ben Franklin in Coldwater, said sales of party paraphernalia have increased since Christmas.
    Customers have a choice of buying individual items or complete party packages. The grand daddy of all packages at $17.88 contains five top hats, five tiaras, five foil horns, five noisemakers and 18 serpentine throws. The smaller and quieter version, which sells for $6.88, boasts five tricolored hats, five tiaras, five leis and a handful of serpentine throws. It comes without noisemakers for those wishing to usher in 2003 in quieter fashion.
    The celebration of the new year is reportedly the oldest of all holidays, according to historians. It was first observed in ancient Babylon some 4,000 years ago. The Babylonian celebration lasted 11 days, with each day having a different theme. Julius Caesar is credited with declaring Jan. 1 as the official start of the year in accordance with the Julian Calendar.
    The Babylonians were apparently the first to make New Year's resolutions. Instead of promises to lose weight or to stop smoking, they vowed to return borrowed farm equipment. However, Greeks back in 600 B.C. were the first to use a baby to signify a new year. They celebrated Dionysus, the God of wine, by parading around town with a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that God as the spirit of fertility.
    The Tournament of Roses Parade, a holiday favorite, dates back to 1886 when members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers to commemorate the ripening of another orange crop. The Rose Bowl football game was first played in 1902.


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