No one knows how this town’s 90-year-old tradition started. But it’s a New Year staple.

 

The tiny town of Lenox is about 400 miles from the ocean, but somehow, their New Year’s tradition revolves around a seaside staple.

For nearly 100 years, this community has been eating oysters together every Jan. 1.

Why? Well, no one really knows.

We do know this curious feast dates back to 1924, Fresh oysters, Lenox, West Virginiawhen a group of locals gathered on New Year’s Day to eat oyster stew. The reason may have been lost with time, but that hasn’t kept volunteers in the unincorporated community from carrying on the public event.

They use the same old recipe, which makes about 21 gallons of soup— enough for the 100 to 120 folks who stop by the Lenox Community Building, where the dinner has been since 1952.

The recipe goes something like this:

  • Put a gallon of oysters in a pot and cook for about 15 minutes until tender.
  • Add 8 teaspoons of salt, a stick of butter, 2 gallons of milk, and celery salt and pepper to taste.
  • Mix in a roaster and keep warm. The longer it marinates, the better.

If we had to guess at why this tradition stuck, it’s probably because the stew is tasty— dang tasty.

Or maybe it’s just nice to kick off the year with a sense of community. Everyone pitches in. Volunteers bring in covered side dishes and coordinate the cooking, setting tables and cleanup. Dinner-goers donate the cost of their bowl of oyster stew, which goes into a fund to cover the next year’s expenses. You can even buy leftovers if you want to savor the New Year’s feast later on.

It wasn’t always like that, though. Women in the community used to have to lug all the ingredients up a hill to an old building— one that had neither fresh running water nor a stove. Then, they had to once again lug the finished stew in kettles back to hungry folks at the bottom of the hill.

Yeah— they kept it up every year, even through that.

In the past, they brought in speakers, music and other entertainment. But now, the focus is mostly on those oysters— and the camaraderie of keeping a mysterious old tradition alive with your neighbors.

Want your fix? Be at the Lenox Community Building on New Year’s Day at noon. Bring a hungry tummy!

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This post was last updated on October 18, 2017