New Year’s babies, as the years go by

Published 5:46 am Sunday, January 16, 2022

It is not exactly clear when newspapers began announcing the arrival of the year’s first babies. The image of a new baby symbolizing a fresh start at the beginning of each year dates back to ancient Greece and the annual rebirth celebration of the Greek god Dionysus, the god of fertility and wine. 

During the festivities, the newest infant in the community would be placed in a basket and paraded through town. Although we may not form any processions down Forest Avenue or Main Street, there is still quite a bit of emphasis on the tiny face of a new year baby, although not as much as in years past. 

Between 1906 and 1943, The Saturday Evening Post featured its own rendition of the New Year’s baby on every first-of-the-year issue. There were a few classic films like Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976) that bolstered the tiny icon’s popularity.

Some New Year’s babies and their parents have scored prizes like free baby gear, free meals and even scholarships. Shea Powell Jackson of Millbrook doesn’t recall her parents mentioning any prizes for being the first baby born in Crenshaw County in 1972, 50 years ago. However, she said her mother, Janice Williamson Powell, was a nurse at the hospital and saw it as a comforting bonus being surrounded by her friends and co-workers during the birth of her first and ultimately only child. Jackson also said she is sure her parents found this recognition an honor. 

Celebrating her 50th birthday this year, Jackson said for this milestone birthday she plans on forgoing her normal quiet dinners with family that and hopes to have a large celebration in the spring when the weather is nicer and everyone can be outside. 

“I want to be surrounded by all my friends and enjoy their company! I absolutely enjoy my birthday and celebrate the whole day long. I always cry when my birthday is over. I guess it is because I just enjoy all parts of life and my special day,” Jackson said. 

According to Jackson, life is a gift, and we should celebrate it daily.

“We are gifted with 86,400 seconds each day and our lives can change in any one of those seconds. We need to use those 86,400 seconds to love one another and make positive differences in the lives of others. We need to live life with an exclamation point, sparkle and shine and be more grateful! It is my hope that I leave a legacy of love and joy. Here’s to another 50 years!” Jackson said. 

Jackson is a published author. Her book My Life with a Dandelion mentions what she calls “my sweet hometown of Luverne.”

When Jackson was born, the national average for the price of a birth was $1,500. In 1972, the average price per diaper was 10 cents. Infant car seats were about $10 each if one was used at all. One could purchase a 32 ounce can of formula for around $2.50 and fill their gas tank up for around 40 cents a gallon. A gallon of milk was $1.30, a loaf of bread 25 cents, and one pounds of potatoes cost just 93 cents. In 1972 the minimum wage was $1.60. The national median income was $11,000. 

Quinnshallia Robinson of Greenville was the first baby to be born at Crenshaw Community Hospital in 1997. A picture of the New Year’s baby and her mother, Tramika Robinson, was featured in The Luverne Journal’s January 1997 issue, volume one hundred nine. 

In the picture with the infant and her mother is Carol Dillon of Luverne. Dillon recently retired from the hospital in Luverne after over 30 years of service. She said that it was always exciting to be part of a New Year’s birth and added that such a birth represents new beginnings for a new year. 

In 1997 the average price per diaper was 25 cents. One could purchase a 32 ounce can of formula for around $4 and fill their gas tank up for around $1.23 per gallon. A gallon of milk was $3, a loaf of bread was 87 cents, eggs were $1.06 per dozen and one pound of potatoes cost 36 cents. In 1997 the federal minimum wage was $5.15, and the median income was $37,000.

Many things have changed throughout the years and the differences can be quite astonishing when shown side by side. With approximately 130 million babies born each year in the world, being born on New Year’s Day is still held in a special regard. Could it be the start of a new year being blessed coupled with the start of a new life? Perhaps it is simply starting the new year with the most precious gift of all. Whatever the reason, happy belated birthday to all the New Year’s babies!