Friday, December 30, 2011

Scottish New Year Tradition

The influx of Scottish families who left their homes to seek work in the south of England brought many customs and traditions of Christmas and the New Year. One such custom is that of “first footing” ceremony. 

Traditionally, a man with dark hair should enter the front door of the home at the stroke of midnight. He should not wear any dark clothes as if in mourning, he should not carry anything sharp, have bad thoughts and should not have a limp or be otherwise impaired. Depending on the area, he should carry specific gifts such as a piece of coal, or other means of providing warmth such as wood or peat; a bottle of whiskey, beer or mead, a loaf of bread or a cake and some silver coins. These gifts are symbolic of the need for warmth, food and drink and wealth. The dark haired visitor may also hold some kind of greenery--the universal sign of a messenger.
The visitor would enter in silence, but after doing so would kiss all the ladies and recite a rhyme.
“I wish you a happy New Year
A pocketful of money, a cellar full of beer,
A good fat pig to last all year
So please give a gift for New Year.”
After this ritual, the visitor must exit through the back door to complete the custom.

From: Christmas Past in Essex by Elizabeth Wallace.