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South Polls Happy New Year! by John Shelton Reed Like the Chinese, southerners have long been inclined to welcome the New Year with fireworks or, lacking those, with gunfire. When the Southern Focus Poll asked, "Have you ever set off fireworks or fired a gun to celebrate New Year's Eve?" 60 percent of native southerners acknowledged having set off fireworks and 15 percent said they had shot guns; among native nonsoutherners, the numbers were 24 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Though more common in the Deep South (South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana) than in the "peripheral South" (Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky , Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida), the custom is apparently widespread among southerners of all races, and at all educational and income levels . It is, if anything, more common in the metropolitan South than in nonmetropolitan areas, and younger southerners are considerably more likely than older ones to report having engaged in it, which suggests that this mode of celebration is more widespread now than in previous generations. Although southern women are less likely than southern men to have celebrated in these ways, they are considerably more likely than nonsouthern men to have set off fireworks (46 vs. 35 percent), if not to have shot guns (6 vs. 12 percent). Among migrants to the South, assimilation to this aspect of southern culture is proceeding apace. The longer people have lived in the South, the more likely they are to have observed a traditional southern New Year. Historical note: We have this custom to thank for the career of at least one great southerner: the young Louis Armstrong learned to play cornet in a New Orleans orphanage , where he'd been sent for shooting a gun in the street to celebrate New Year's. 422 Southern Cultures Percent who have Set offFired fireworksgun Southern total Southern region Deep South Peripheral South Lived in South 10 years or less More than 10 years Whole life Residence at age 16 South Border states Non-South Considers self southerner Yes No Residence Metropolitan Nonmetropolitan Race White Black Other Sex Male Female Age 18-24 25-44 45-64 65 or older Education 11th grade or less High school graduate Some college College graduate 54 64 50 37 50 60 60 52 33 59 42 56 53 56 48 54 66 46 66 60 51 40 53 55 55 55 14 16 13 8 11 15 15 12 10 14 10 14 12 13 20 15 25 6 20 15 12 9 12 17 12 12 South Polls423 Percent who have Set offFired fireworksgun Income Less than $20,000 51 14 $20,000-$39,999 56 15 $40,000-$59,999 60 17 $60,000 or more____________________________58________________9____________ *Data from the Fall 1994 Southern Focus Poll, conducted by the Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, based on telephone interviews with 934 southern households and 461 nonsouthern households. ...