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Will you be a 2020 ‘First-footer’?

Do you know this tradition? If your roots are in Scotland or Northern England, and you are of a certain age, you may know of the practice, or have even been a first-footer yourself. Traditions come and go, of course, and, though I remember our house being ‘first-footed’ a couple of times when I was a kid, it isn’t something you hear about much anymore… at least here on this side of the Pond…

Basically, the whole notion is that the first person to set foot inside your house in the new year may (or may not) bring you luck. Traditionally, the first-footer creating the best luck for a household would be a dark-haired male bearing gifts. Women, or blondes of either sex, were viewed as somewhat less lucky, and an arrival without gifts would be… well, you might as well pee on the carpet.

Now, there are certain specific items that are traditional for first-footing… These are:

  • A coin (preferably silver) to bring prosperity;
  • A lump of coal, for the bringing of warmth;
  • Bread, to ensure ample food;
  • Salt, to add ‘spice’ to life; and, best of all,
  • A drink … usually a ‘wee dram’ of whisky… to bring cheer.

There are variations on this of course. A bottle of wine might be given instead of the traditional ‘wee dram’, a cake might stand in for the bread, and, given the scarcity of coal as a heating fuel these days, a box of matches, or even a lighter, might be given to bring warmth.

I don’t actually expect my household to be first-footed this year, but if anyone is moved to do so, they will be most welcome. In that event, I wouldn’t trouble yourself to much about the coal, or even the salt, and, as for the drink… Well, I would be more partial to a ‘wee bucket’ of whisky myself…


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