How to Celebrate a First Footing

The "First Footing" is a tradition celebrated on Hogmanay, a Scottish New Year's celebration. It is supposed to bring luck and prosperity to the household for the new year. It is a ritual involving the first person to step into a household from the outside in a new year. Similar traditions exist in Greece and Georgia. If you are of Scottish heritage or would simply like to expand your own celebration and add new experiences, here's how you can go about it.


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    Find an appropriate candidate to be the First Foot. Traditionally, the "luckiest" person to enter a house in the new year is a tall, dark-haired man. If you have a friend or family member fitting that description, ask them to participate. If they're not considerably tall or their hair is medium-dark, that's OK, too. However, it is considered unlucky to choose a red-headed person as a First Foot.
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    Assemble gifts for the First Foot to bring into the house. These generally include small items that represent the wishes for the new year, i.e. a piece of coal for a warm hearth, bread and salt for all in the house to be fed adequately, a coin for financial prosperity, and a drink (commonly whiskey) to represent good cheer.
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    Send your First Foot outside before the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve. Since this can mean being somewhat excluded from the first hoorays and "Happy New Year's!" wishes, you can find a loophole and have everyone else standing inside with the door open and your First Foot outside when midnight strikes. The First Foot may also be accompanied by others (a group could go outside), as long as he is the first to step over the threshold after midnight and some people are inside to open the door.
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    Have your First Foot knock on the door after midnight. Three knocks are traditional, but they can knock however they please.
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    Open the door for the First Foot.
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    Have your First Foot step over the threshold with "A Happy New Year and Good Tidings to you and yours". The First Foot will then hand the gifts to the keeper(s) of the household and accept a drink (typically whiskey) from them to toast with them. All guests may have their glasses filled beforehand to join in the toast (traditionally "Slaínte!"). It is considered unlucky to either not offer the First Foot a drink or for them to decline it. If your First Foot does not drink alcohol, offer a different beverage instead. This is symbolic of accepting blessings and "inviting good luck to stay".
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    Continue your celebration however you see fit.

Things You'll Need

  • A coin
  • A portion of salt
  • A piece of bread
  • A piece of coal or wood/kindling
  • A small amount of whiskey in a container

Article Info

Categories: Event and Party Planning | Holidays and Traditions