Happy New Year!
Think carefully. Who was the first person in your door after midnight last night?
Depending on your family traditions in nineteenth century England, the answer to that question could determine what kind of year you were going to have. The tradition of the First Footer originated in Scotland, but was practiced in the north and other parts of England. Basically the idea was that the first person who walked through your door could, depending on the circumstances, bring you luck for the year.
What constituted the circumstances varied by location. Some folks insisted that the visitor must bring a gift of food. Others had more elaborate traditions where the visitor had to bring symbols of warmth (a lump of coal for the fire), food (anything from bread to red herrings to mine pies to wine or whiskey), and wealth (a silver coin). Some visitors were supposed to remain silent until they had set the coal into the fire; others were supposed to run through the house shouting New Year’s greetings! The tradition was so engrained in some households that families actually tried to game the system by arranging with certain people exactly who would show up at the door so as to ensure their luck.
Most people believed the First Footer must be male, but here again sources differed as to exactly which type of male brought you good luck. Some favored blonds.
Others favored the tall, dark, and handsome.
Frankly, if I had been an unwed young lady eagerly waiting with her family to see who would pop through the door, I wouldn’t turn either of them down. How about you?