Hillary the Pig and New Year Traditions

My dad’s uncle, Shorty Miller, was a pig farmer and folk philosopher. Okay, maybe philosopher is spreading it a bit thick; let’s call him a “character.”

I always looked forward to seeing Uncle Shorty because he always had a story to tell. Many times his stories would be about his pet pig, Hillary. Hillary was named after the First Lady at the time, and Shorty couldn’t quite see that this was not an honor Mrs. Clinton would appreciate.

I remember asking Uncle Shorty why eating pork and sauerkraut was lucky in Pennsylvania Dutch culture.

Shorty said, “It sure ain’t lucky for the pigs! Hillary has to say goodbye to lots of friends!”

I’ve always heard the real reason we eat pork for the new year is that pigs forage on the ground, are always looking ahead and keeping their heads down, and forget about the past. The sauerkraut just happens to be ready from the October crop, and goes well with the pork.

In the church there aren’t very many traditions around the new year that I have experienced. Since it’s right after Christmas, most churches are in “recovery mode” at this time, and are focused on celebrating Epiphany the next week.

Our Jewish friends definitely don’t eat pork on New Year’s Day. Jews also get two New Years per year. The Jewish calendar is based on the moon’s orbit around Earth, instead of our secular calendar based on Earth’s orbit around the sun. That is why Easter moves around the calendar; the lunar year and solar year are not in sync.

The Jewish New Year is one of the most holy festivals of the year for Jews, and is celebrated around mid-September or early October. Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah, and is celebrated by blowing a ram’s horn, called a shofar. More important, it is a very sacred time when prayers to confess sin and fasting are observed. It is believed that Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment, when it is decided whether your name will be written in one of three books: the book of life, the book of death, or the book of you better shape up by Yom Kippur…

May 2022 be filled with all of God’s blessings for you and your family! The book of life is filled with possibilities and hope, and God’s promise made through Christ’s resurrection is even better. Amen


Pastor Joel
Rev. Joel Risser, Pastor & Teacher