Ladies and gentlemen, as yet another year draws to its ineluctable conclusion, folks near and far are preparing to usher in a new one.
I know a few people who have celebrated the New Year by watching the ball drop in Times Square in New York. Now, I’m not talking about watching the ball drop on television – they were actually there in Times Square. If memory serves, a tall reporter who used to write for The Highland County Press and is now an attorney did this a couple of years ago.
The annual event is an old tradition that was first held on Dec. 31, 1907 to welcome in 1908. The ball drop has been held every year since, except in 1942 and 1943 because of wartime lighting restrictions during World War II.
While I tip my hat to all the folks who have made the pilgrimage to Time Square for the New Year’s Eve festivities, standing for hours and hours in cold weather isn’t exactly on my bucket list.
According to the National Weather Service, the coldest event was in 1917 when it was 1 degree with a wind chill of minus 18 degrees. It’s snowed seven times out of 110 ball drops – the most recent being 2009 – and it’s also rained multiple times. The average temperature at midnight in New York City from 1907 to 2011 was 33.7 degrees.
Most of us have some sort of New Year’s tradition – watching the ball drop on television at home or with friends and family at a party or gathering, fixing a nice meal, putting in a classic or favorite movie, sharing a kiss at midnight.
And as Jan. 1 approaches, I am reminded of another New Year’s tradition that dates back much farther than the ball drop in Times Square.
It was an old tradition of my great-great grandparents, James Worth Gossett and Sarah Ann Roberts Gossett.
James Worth Gossett was born in 1847 and his wife, Sarah, was born in 1843. They built a house near Pricetown, the beautiful home on Certier Road across from Fort Salem, raised eight children and lost two more at a young age. Their youngest child, Lavina Gossett Roush, is my great grandmother. She was born in 1887 and passed away in 1978 when I was just 5 years old. Later in life, Lavina recorded herself performing the tradition that the Gossett family did every New Year.
As the story goes, on New Year’s Day, Sarah Gossett would step out in front of the family farmhouse and sing her New Year’s song, which goes something like this:
Awake, awake my neighbor dear
I wish to you another happy year
The New Year’s gnawing at your door
The old one’s gone and comes no more
The sausages and puddings, they’re right
Just made to sooth the appetite
The powders and the pans and the guns are in her hands
The smoke it shall descend from door to door
And in a moment, it shall roar.
At that point, James Worth Gossett would fire his gun.
Well, that’s the story as I remember it told to me. It certainly seems like a good, wholesome tradition, and I’m glad that my great grandma Roush preserved it. I know the Rev. Dr. Floyd Faust (1904-2000), a relative of HCP columnist and Lynchburg-Clay director of athletics Mark Faust, sent a copy of Lavina’s recording to my granddad Wesley Roush (1910-2006) many years ago, and I hope there are a few copies still floating around somewhere.
The Gossett family worshiped at the Pricetown Church of Christ, and when they would have family dinners, James Worth Gossett would sit at the end of the table with the family bible, and read from the bible before praying for the meal and the family. They loved to sing, James Worth played a fiddle, and two of the daughters played the piano and the organ.
They’d often start by singing Sarah’s favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Then when we first begun.”
Then they’d usually sing James Worth’s favorite, “In the Sweet By and By.”
To our bountiful Father above,
We will offer our tribute of praise
For the glorious gift of His love
And the blessings that hallow our days.
The Gossett family loved their God and they loved each other.
May we all strive to do the same and always count our many blessings. Happy New Year, everyone.
Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press.