Friday, December 31, 2010

First Footing

The Tradition

Following the Protestant Reformation in Scotland in the latter half of the sixteenth century, it was considered irreverent to celebrate dates of religious importance. Thus, merriment and celebrations were reserved for Hogmanay (pronounced Hog-muh-nay), this important part of the year combined both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with a celebration of good will and good fortune.

The use of the term "first-footin'", according to legend, is as follows:

fortune would smile on the household if the first person to set foot in the doorway on the New Year was a young man; presumably tall, handsome, healthy, dark haired, dark-eyed, and bearing gifts (such as a lump of coal, to warm the hearth; loaf of bread, for a plentiful table; and coins for prosperity). Today it does no harm if the first-footer carries a bottle of his best and favorite beverage to offer his host a drink and a toast, stating "Lang may your lum reek." This traditional Scottish salutation wishes its recipient long life and prosperity. It literally means “long may your chimney smoke” (hence the lump of coal).

A first-footer who arrived empty handed was seen as a terrible omen of poverty and loss in the New Year. However, it was traditionally believed that it spelled disaster upon the household if the first person across the threshold was a woman of any age, especially a blond. (This may be due to the Viking raiders, most of whom had blond hair and certainly spelled disaster upon any rival’s home that they visited.)
A doctor or lawyer was also undesirable, as the first-footer; doctors would bring illness or death and lawyers would bring trouble and disaccord.

Several towns throughout the hillsides of Scotland continue an age old annual ritual of a walking the town limits to restate or reclaim the boundaries of the township.

These traditions have been adopted as part of the Rural Hill Hogmanay (Scottish New Year) celebration, known simply as “First Footin’”. Traditionally, the fulfillments of Hogmanay’s rituals and folklore have assured good crops, good health, and good fortune in the coming year.