Lucky Lemon Pigs - [Charm/FolkToy]
• About: A Lucky Citrus Piggy! – "For good luck in the new year, crafting a lemon pig is an absolute must!!" – The steps to make one for yourself are as follows:
- Get a Lemon. (Limes & other fruits will do as well, However, lemons are known to last the longest.)
- Cut a slit for the piggy's smile. (depending on the lemon you could also cut the nose flat.)
- Carve the ears using "V" shapes & peel them back. (be careful to not cut the whole ear off.)
- For the eyes Use Cloves, (Push Pins or Beads also work easily)
- For the legs Insert four toothpicks. (carved match sticks are the traditional method, but you can use screws or what everelse is available.)
- Add a curly tail. (Tinfoil, Yarn, Wire, a Spring or even a curled dandelion on stem have been among the recommended materials in past guides.)
- (Earlier guides on the subject also recommend painting the piggy with charcoal, ink or crayons to make him look dirty & thus more realistic get creative!)
- Give him a shiny coin & you should be in for a lucky year!
[Above: how NOT TO make a Lemon Piggy, sadly i lacked any of the listed supplies! couldn't find any toothpicks, cloves, aluminum or even a penny even my lemon was small and bruised... hopefully hes still good enough to do the trick as a catalyst for good luck and vibes in the new years! XD]
• History: The earliest mention of these 'lemon pigs' as a craft goes back a century to a story as told by a young lady: 'Flibbertigibbets Journey: As told by herself' in Ballou's Monthly Magazine 1882. In which the young lass makes one for her mommy along with a “walnut witch” along with a few other childrens crafts. people have been making pigs out of lemons for a little over a century & it seems that it originated as a fun children's make-work project. (A simple craft to keep the young ones busy, distracted, entertained or occupied.) - Ages Before TV, phones and tablets were as widely spread of 'a thing' adults had to give such silly suggestions, (The rest of play was fufilled by the young ones imaginations.) craft suggestions where common in papers and there are plenty of books on the subject too.
One such book wherein The Lemon Pigs would eventually make an illustrated re-appearance in Margaret Coulsen Walkers - "Lady Hollyhock and Her Friends: A Book of Nature Dolls." 1907 - The book contains a number of DIY crafts with fun snippets, illustrations and fun lore added to each one; I'd highly recommend a flip through the old book on the internet archive: here there are plenty of funny things to craft.
[The colorized pig on the next page, note the use of matches for feet instead of toothpicks!] The same book also features a story about an Irish (potato) woman and her family including a similar "Irish potato pig" –
Later, in 1932, the lemon pigs make a brief appearance in papers yet again this time being crafted by the papers "imps."
Fast forward a long while and by 1971 the same 'craft project' of lemon pigs where once again this time featured a magazine:" 401 Party & Holiday Ideas from Alcoa" (Aluminum Company of America.) where In All 401 of the crafts of course used aluminum. (naturally) - However this instance of lucky lemon piglet' was supposedly the first to say that it was a New Year tradition. - [Notably: 1971 would have also been 'The year of the metal pig' on the Chinese Zodiac. - it could be a coincidence, or bit of a stretch? The book covers a lot of different religious holidays - so i'd say that's a likely contender as to why the lemon pig was featured that year as a lucky 'New Year' charm. - (That in mind, for especially good luck, be sure to make a lemon pig in 2032! (the next year of the "metal pig"))]
-[Image Source: Grannie Pantries]
Bizarrely: yet another paper from May of the same year would also pin it as a custom from Germany, apparently the lemon pigs where commonly served along side wiener schnitzel. (No word yet if thats true at all though! I'm not versed well enough in German customs to do the additional research, if your parents are German, ask them if they ever made lemon pigs!!) - What's more interesting is this guide, also mentions the coin. meaning that giving the lemon pigs coins at last would have been 'a thing' around the time, (this possibbly predates the previously mentioned holiday article.)
• Modern Resurgence: Rather Suddenly, 46 years later (& after the introduction of the internet) Blog, Grannie Pantries, posted about the "Alcoa lucky lemon piglet" in 2016 which featured as a foot note along side the other aluminum monstrosities and 70s centre pieces. - The pig would go viral online on social media in the holiday of 2017. - [with various news sources popping up about the 'worlds newest new years tradition' starting in 2018.] ...After becoming something of a 'meme', the 'tradition of lemon pigs' was seemingly set in place and revived yet again! - The tradition has been going strong yearly through the pandemic and from what i've witnessed, quite a few artists online have made it into a yearly ritual. But the nature of social media has changed tradition yet again. A notable funny addition to this 'tradition' is some are choosing to keep their lemon pigs around until the following year, often sharing (somewhat morbid) victory pics of the now dried/mummified swine who survived from the previous years... - Most earlier guides recommend making lemonaid when you're done playing with the pig, so this is certainly new. - Others choose to cast their old pigs to the fire or compost bins. - Make of that what you will and have fun with your lemon pig!!! Wishing all of you dear readers, patrons, friends the best of luck in the new year!!
• PS: For those curious: (as I do often cover Japan & various Folktoys.) Despite the similar appearance, this custom has seemingly nothing to do with the Japanese Obon custom of "Spirit Horses & Oxen" - "精霊馬" - (Shoryo-Uma & Shoryo-Ushi) - which are usually made of cucumbers & eggplants. - i only mention it as to make note not to overly conflate the two (as one carries luck and the other carries loved one's spirits.) - [I'll likely cover that subject in more detail another time! perhaps next summer? Please look forward to more posts from me in the new year! :)]