New Year Shooters

Travel + Leisure just posted an article titled “World’s Strangest New Year Traditions.” The piece details traditions from Belarus to Japan, but I have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed in the magazine. They left out one of the most unusual of New Year traditions: “shooting in the new year.”

According to Kevin Cherry, this tradition, which is now only practiced in portions of Lincoln and Gaston Counties, involves descendants of German settlers “traveling from house to house, chanting and firing black powder muskets.” The event starts at midnight on New Year’s Day. A member of the group, who is designated as the “crier,” yells “‘Halloo’ three times to alert those in the house, and then gives a rhyming chant.” After the chant, the shooters fire their muskets one at a time from the hip at knee level. After this, the members of the house invite the shooters in for coffee or cider and food.

Since most of us won’t be able to experience the delight of musket shots outside our home at midnight, I thought that we could at least share with you some images from a recent Lincolnton Times-News article and a version of the chant as reproduced in The State magazine on January 1, 1955

The New Year Chant

Good morning to you, Sir.
We wish you a happy New Year,
Great health, long life,
Which God may bestowe
So long as you stay here below.
May he bestowe the house you are in
Where you go out and you go in.
Time by moments steal away
First the hour and then the day.
Small the lost days may appear
But yet they soon amount up to a year.
This another year is gone
And now it is no more of our own
But if it brings our promises good
As the year before the flood.
But let none of us forget
It has left us much in debt,
A favor from the Lord received
Since which our spirits have been grieved.
Marked by the unerring hand
Thus in his book our record stands.
Who can tell the vast amount
Placed to each our accounts?
But while you owe the debt is large
You may pleade a full discharge.
But poor and selfish sinners, say
What can you to justice pay?
Trembling last for life is past
And into prison you may be cast.
Happy is the believing soul.
Christ for you has paid the whole.
We have this New Year’s morning call(ed)
     you by your name
And disturbed you from your rest.
But we hope no harm by the same.
As we ask come tell us your desire
And if it be your desire
Our guns and pistols they shall fire.
Since we hear of no defiance
You shall hear the art of science.
When we pull triggers and powder burns
You shall hear the roaring of the guns.
Oh, daughters of righteous(ness), we will rise
And warm our eyes and bless our hearts,
For the old year’s gone and the New Year’s come
And for good luck we’ll fire our guns.

Happy New Year from North Carolina Miscellany!

2 thoughts on “New Year Shooters”

  1. I grew up hearing the muskets all night long on New Years eve and all day the following day. It is a tradition I took it for granted back then and now that I live in SC, I really miss hearing the guns “shooting in the new year”!
    I can still hear the chant being sung and the sound of the chanter’s musket, louder than you can imagine. The shooters came dressed in long dark trenchcoats with hankerchiefs tied to their guns. Grandfathers, fathers, and sons all loyal to the tradition passed through the generations. How I wish I could be there tonight to witness, once again,this fantastic display of reverence to the passing of 2008!

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