Windham to continue New Year’s Day tradition

Published 9:35 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One of Selma’s most notable personalities offers good peas, pork and cornbread for New Year’s Day. Everything else that happens depends on the crowd.

Kathryn Tucker Windham has held a party at her house at 2004 Royal St. for 35 years. Several times recently, she thought she might have thrown the last one.

But she has once again extended the invitation to anyone that enjoys good food and good company — as long as they understand the lights go out before 7 p.m.

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“It’ll start around 10:30 a.m. and go to 6:30,” said Windham, who celebrated her 90th birthday in June. “Come any time you want to, bring as many people as you want and stay as long as you want to. I like to do it, and I’m glad I can still do it.”

Windham said she began holding the party because of the superstition that eating black eye peas, hog jowls and cornbread is good luck for the next 12 months.

The author, photographer and journalist recalled some of her past parties Tuesday afternoon — right after she made a trip to the grocery store to get more peas.

She talked about a group several years ago that included the late former Selma Mayor Joe Smitherman. They stayed until 2 the next morning. That was a rare occurrence, but it was worth it.

“I wish I had a tape recorder back then,” Windham said.

People from all over the state have attended the party in the past.

Last year’s crowd reached an estimated 170 throughout the day. The number each year usually depends on the weather and who is playing football that day, Windham said.

Windham relies on several volunteers each year to help her wash dishes. She refuses to use plastic plates and cutlery.

She hasn’t run out of food yet, and people keep coming back despite a rarity for Southern kitchens — sugarless cornbread.

“It’s always nice to see who is going to be here,” Windham said. “Some have been here nearly every year.”