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In Scottish and Northern English folklore, the first-foot (Scottish Gaelic: ciad-chuairt, Manx: quaaltagh/qualtagh), is the first person to enter the home of a household on New Year's Day and is seen as a bringer of good fortune for the coming year.[1][2]

Although it is acceptable in many places for the first-foot to be a resident of the house, they must not be in the house at the stroke of midnight in order to be the first-foot. Thus, going out of the house after midnight and then coming back into the same house is not considered to be first-footing. It is said to be desirable for the first-foot to be a tall, dark-haired male; a female or fair-haired male are in some places regarded as unlucky. In Worcestershire, luck is ensured by stopping the first carol singer who appears and leading him through the house.[citation needed] In Yorkshire, it must always be a male who enters the house first, but his fairness is no objection.[3]

The first-foot usually brings several gifts, including perhaps a coin (silver is considered good luck), bread, salt, coal, evergreen, and/or a drink (usually whisky), which represent financial prosperity, food, flavour, warmth, long-life, and good cheer respectively.[2] In Scotland, first-footing has traditionally been more elaborate than in England, involving subsequent entertainment.[3]

Whenever a public ritual is suppressed many continue it at another date. Many customs of First Footing: bringing coal, knocking on doors, group singing Auld Lang Syne to pass from the old to the new, parallel those of Samhain, the Celtic new year, for which fuel was gathered, food collected by reciting verses door-to-door, and a ritual fire lit to welcome crossing the threshold to the next world. “Quite a degree of transferability of customs across the period between Samhain ... Christmas and New Year. Whether this represents a natural tendency to transfer celebrations that brighten the dull winter months or a concerted religious effort to dissipate or transform wholly pagan festivities remains unclear, but a combination of factors is likely.” [4]

There are practices similar to first-footing outside the British isles. For example, it exists in Sweden, where having a fair skinned, blond(e) first-foot is considered the highest blessing whereas darker persons are considered bad luck. In a similar Greek tradition called pothariko, also called "podariko" (from the root pod-, or foot), it is believed that the first person to enter the house on New Year's Eve brings either good or bad luck. Many households to this day keep this tradition and specially select who first enters the house. After the first-foot, the lady of the house serves the guests with Christmas treats or gives them an amount of money to ensure that good luck will come in the new year.

A similar tradition exists in the country of Georgia, where the person is called "mekvle" (from "kvali" – footstep, footprint, trace).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Simpson, Jacqueline; Steve Roud (2000). "New Year". A dictionary of English Folklore. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-210019-X.
  2. ^ a b Page, Michael; Robert Ingpen (1987). Encyclopedia of Things that Never Were. New York: Viking Press. p. 167. ISBN 0-670-81607-8.
  3. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "First-foot". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ Atlantic Religion. com collected 31December 2018

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