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Story ID:10222
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Jamesville New York USA
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By Fred Wickert

When I was a child things were different than they are now. For one thing, there was no television so it was not possible for the rest of the country to see the ball drop in Times Square.

We lived on the farm in those days, before and during World War II. We never made any plans to go anywhere. The family was all at home. We didnít spend a lot of money on noise makers or anything like that, but New Yearís Eve did not go without notice.

Normally when chores were all done we came in the house. We cleaned up a few things and put them away and then we went to bed. Usually it was between 11:00 P.M. and midnight when we went to bed.

On New Yearís Eve it was a little different. When we came in from doing chores and the cleanup was finished, we had some popcorn and hot cocoa while we waited for midnight to arrive. We also listened to the radio.

The radio always had a watch for midnight to come. The ball in Times Square was still being dropped but we heard the crowd do the count down over the radio. As we waited for the time to come we listened on the radio to one big band after another and sometimes a singer too. There were several big hotels in New York City with a ball room. In one was Tommy Dorsey and in another there was Jimmy Dorsey and there was Guy Lombardo in still another Benny Goodman. All of these big bands were a real treat to listen to.

When Midnight came you heard the crowd chant the numbers backwards as the ball dropped. Then everyone said happy New Year as the bands all swung in to Alde Lang Zine. Now came the most special part of all.

My father grew up in a German family and in his family there was a tradition that just had to be followed in his household after he married. All day long there simmered on the stove a big pot of lentils or split peas or perhaps both. A number of chunks of ham were in it too, along with the right seasoning. Then there was the final touch. A few minutes before it was ready to serve the kaniffelees (Now folks, I donít know what the correct spelling is. It just sounds like I wrote it,) were made and tossed in to the pot and stirred a couple of times.

These things were made out of some sort of dough that looked for all the world like thin pizza dough. In those days we had not yet heard of pizza. That didnít happen until I was in high school. The dough was rolled out and cut in thin strips. The strips were then rolled in the hand until they looked like a fat worm two or three inches long. Then it was dropped in to the still cooking soup. When they were done, the soup was ready.

The pot was removed from the stove and the soup ladled in to a large bowl. Each bowl full of soup contained some chunks of ham and at least three kaniffalees. It was traditional in my Dadís family to eat at midnight on New Yearís Eve and until he died it was traditional in his family. He taught Tae how to make them so the tradition could be continued in his sonís household too. Sadly, Tae has passed on and I never learned how. None of my sisters are here anymore either. I doubt my cousin knows. To my knowledge there was no written recipe.

Maybe if I ask around I can find out how to make them. There should still be some German old timers around that know. That was our familyís way of celebrating or ushering in the New Year. That bowl of soup was so good. Sometimes after chores you came in the house with a chill if it was cold enough outside. It the cocoa didnít chase away the chill that bowl of soup was bound to do it. Those were good days. It was the simple things that mattered back then. I truly think the young people of today are missing something for not having days like those.

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