New Years Day Oyster Stew Tradition in Lenox

By Candace Nelson - 6:08 PM

Lenox oyster stewThe small town of Lenox celebrates the New Year in a unique way: By having a community lunch of oyster stew.

Lenox oyster stewNo one really knows why or how it got started, but every New Year's day, the town gathers at the Lenox Community Center (10782 Brandonville Pike in Albright, WV) at noon and has a feast.

Lenox oyster stewThe tradition has been going on for 96 years with the same recipe:

Lenox oyster stewOne gallon of oysters in a pot are cooked for about 15 minutes until tender.
Add 8 teaspoons of salt, a stick of butter, 2 gallons of milk, celery salt, and pepper to taste.
Mix in a roaster and keep warm until lunch time.

Lenox oyster stewI made the trip up today to check it out and mark off this unique experience on my list. About 100-120 people show up to devour about 20 gallons of soup.

Folks also brought covered dishes, desserts and more to make it a full meal. Others helped set up, cooked, and cleaned up.

Here's a bit from the tourism website:

We do know this curious feast dates back to 1924, Fresh oysters, Lenox, West Virginia when 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.
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.

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.

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  1. I am so pleased ..hopefully next year I can attend .. Candace you do a great job telling WV's story !


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