Thursday, January 10, 2013


My mom always made sausage or hot dogs, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes on New Years Day.

I never gave it much thought.  It was just this quirky thing that her family had always done, probably an old Amish custom.

I think I’ve done this once or twice in all our married life.  It never went over big, sauerkraut not being a favorite around here.

On our trip we spent part of two days with Paul’s sister Barb in her to-die-for old farmhouse in southwestern Pennsylvania.
She lives there with a family from her church, the Ludwicks.

The day we left, Mr. Ludwick was working in the kitchen as I walked through.  I noticed a red crock pot on the counter.

Curious, I peeked inside, and there was a simmering mixture of hot dogs, kielbasa, and sauerkraut.

I had a sudden flashback to my childhood.

I thought for a minute.

It was New Years Day.

I think the Ludwicks attend a Mennonite church now but I’m pretty sure they grew up as “Englisch” as they come.  Mr. Ludwick works for the FBI—you can’t get more non-Amish than that.

Yet, there was that pot of sausage and sauerkraut on New Years Day.

I didn’t have a box in my brain for this.

As it turns out, the Ludwicks have German heritage from way-way back, and this is just something they do, apparently without giving it much thought.
Maybe we can conclude that sausage and sauerkraut on New Year’s is a German custom, rather than uniquely Amish.  But still, I find it fascinating that these people would keep it up, this many years later.

 Barb said, “I think people in the East are just more traditional.”

Is she right?  I have a quiz for my dear readers who are not of German-Anabaptist extraction:
1.      How many generations “off the boat” are you?  (Or were your ancestors there to meet the boat?)
2.       Do you still keep up ethnic traditions?  If so, what are they?
3.      What part of the country do you live in?

I’d love to hear your answers.


  1. I can't say how many generations for the majority of my family, but my husbands Dad was second generation from Sweden. I am a Western European mutt, and a fourth generation Douglas County-an. We love the kraut, but don't really use it for any traditional holiday type celebration. We have Turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Ham for Easter. Booooring! :D

  2. We aren't from Amish/Mennonite but, we are from German blood. I'm about four generations "off the boat" on my mothers side. We live in a small German Catholic community in the mid-west. Around here folks eat Corned Beef and Kraut for New Years. I enjoy these foods, but we don't have special ethnic traditions that we keep up. (Unless you would call a taste for Kraut an ethnic tradition, lol.)

  3. I am in Oregon, and my family (on my mom's side) is British. My British grandma married my American sailor grandpa during WWII. And yes, we definitely keep a lot of British traditions!

  4. I'm fifth generation on my Dad's side. My Mom's side was here quite a bit longer than that.

  5. 1. Hard to answer your question as my ancestors all arrived at different times from 1620 (Pilgrims) to 1864 (Germans)--at least the ones we know:)
    2. I always celebrate my Celtic heritage on St Patrick's Day with Irish food; I celebrate my adopted Scandinavian heritage at various times throughout the year and try to make a smorgasbord on Christmas Eve. At other times I am drawn to celebrate my German and English ancestry too (Oktoberfest,etc)
    3. Pacific Northwest.
    What a gorgeous farmhouse (and photo)!
    Blessings, Aimee

  6. I'm a Mennonite from Lancaster County, PA...we traditionally do pork (roast) and sauerkraut on New Year's Day (with hot dogs for those who don't like it). And we ALWAYS have mashed potatoes with that. No idea why. I assumed it was an old swiss/german tradition for good luck in the New Year. I totally admit to their being a paradox with why Anabaptists do anything regarding "good luck". Anyway. Oh, and I have no idea what generation I am....guessing 9th or higher....

  7. I'm of German descent from a long time ago (4 or more generations) on my dad's side. We generally had pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day when I was growing up. I do not fix that in my own family.


  8. My dad's side is Norwegian, and I am four generations "off the boat". I am 32 and have made a Christmas Eve smorgasbord for my immediate family since my teen years. I always include a traditional fish dish for myself and my dad, but my brother and my English/Irish mom would prefer to eat something less fishy so I always include something for them as well.

  9. I'm an Oregonian. Most of my grandparents are so many different nationalities they don't claim one or the other. My great-great-grandfather was full native american. There are no traditions (or any aspect of life, really) I can trace back to my heritage. I can't decide whether that makes me sad or not.

  10. would definitely agree with that statement as I am from the east and keep up traditions passed on to me from my parents.

  11. I am of Swiss/German descent.We didn't have pork & sauerkraut in my family but my husband's family did.My MIL serves it faithfully every New Year's Day.I do enjoy it and make it a few times a year.There's some pork and sauerkraut fundraisers in our area(churches & firehalls).Lots of Mennonite & Amish in our county.

  12. I'm not really commenting on your questions, as I was raised Mennonite, so have German and Swiss in me.
    I grew up in Ohio and always thought the pork/ sauerkraut on New Years was a tradition everywhere, but maybe not. I did a search, and it was a tradition among the German, supposedly bringing you good luck in the coming year. Where I live now in central PA. the sauerkraut has a prominent display in the grocery stores around New Years, usually being on sale etc.

  13. BTW, I just read this past season that the redder the watermelon that you eat on NYD, the better your luck that year. We do the pork-potatoes-kraut thing, (my hubby is Germanic, I'm Scots-Irish) and maybe we'll start the melon thing, I don't know. But we're not superstitious. :) -PC in VA

  14. 1-Some of my heritage is from Governor Bradford (or his brother) from before the USA was a country and my husband is 2nd generation "off the boat"
    2-I grew up adapting all kinds of traditions from where ever. New Years celebrations for us were Chinese New Year dragons and parades due to our proximity to SF. The year I had a Spanish exchange student we ate as many grapes as we could while the clock struck midnight, because he said that was their tradition! So glad my dad didn't keep the tradition of which you speak-I don't like Kraut although my husband does
    3-I'm a west coast girl. I've lived large blocks of time in California, Washington, and Oregon.

  15. I am not sure when my relatives came to the United States. My husband has some German ancestors as well. We always make pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day. My mom or relatives served this meal as far back as I can remember. My dad's family served this as well, some German ancestors on that side. My husband has made this meal for the past twenty years for us. Naively, I always assumed everyone ate this on new year's day. We are in Ohio. I was raised Catholic.
    New here...but I am really enjoying reading older posts!


  16. My great grandparents boarded the boat in Poland. They both came separately, before marriage, and married here in the USA. Resided in Ohio.
    They were Catholic. I do not know if they kept any traditions themselves. I do know none were passed down to me. We did call her 'Bopsha' which I would imagine is the 'Englishfied' way of saying the polish word for grandma.
    My parents were not Catholic. I am a first generation anabaptist.

  17. I had a whole LONG comment written out but I deleted thoughts just didn't convey as I wanted them to. But let me say this-as an Ohioan that lived in Colorado for awhile I very much agree with the statement that eastern mennonites are more traditional than westerners. There is some good points to that and some not so good points. That is a whole other debate. I do not believe in traditions at ALL as a salvation,and fear we easterners get hung up in that sometimes. I do however believe traditions can be very soothing and comforting to children and bring them security in knowing what to expect,and create wonderful memories of growing up years. This has gotten my mind whirling...will be debating this with myself all day.=) Oh-I have no idea how many generations off the boat I am-should research that!

  18. I guess I'm "of German-Anabaptist extraction" on one side--but the other side gives me the chance to get together on New Year's Day to feast on mochi (sticky rice cakes), sushi rolls, sukiyaki, and fried gyoza. The first is an ethnic tradition on New Year's Day; the next two are traditional foods but not necessary "New Year's" foods; the last is "adopted" into the cuisine. But, they're all woven together into our own family tradition. My father is first-gen from Japan; I'm in KS.

  19. Thanks, everyone, for your answers. I find this stuff fascinating. Probably not enough data here to draw a lot of conclusions, but very interesting all the same.

  20. I grew up in the middle of Germany but I have never heard of this tradition. My husband is from Southern Germany (near Stuttgart) but he has not heard of it as well. I looked it up at google where it says that the Sauerkraut means there will always be enough money during the new year and I found out that some Germans know this tradtion and some don't. So I suppose that it is only known in some regions. I wonder how many German traditions are still being kept among the Americans...Sorry for my bad English...