Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Tradition of the First Foot

Happy New Year! Have you had your 'first foot' visit yet?

First foot?

Yep. In Scotland and Northern England the First Foot is the first person to visit your home in the New Year. That person is supposed to be an omen or indicator of good luck and fortune.

In Scotland, the first-footer is hopefully male, tall, dark, and handsome. (I am fine with that! :) ) A fair-haired person, male or female is considered to be ill-luck. In other parts of the British Isles, the gender or complexion are not considered, but it's important in Scotland, the land of my forebears. Many of the Hogmany (the Scots New Year) traditions are rooted in the Viking culture and the Scots reaction to the Viking invasions. Thus the hope was that your first visitor after midnight of the New Year would be dark-haired, because seeing a large fair-haired stranger at your door in the middle of the night hadn't worked out too well for the Scots in olden days. :)

When the first-footer arrives, he is welcomed into the house with great hospitality and warmth. He brings gifts with him that are symbolic of his hopes for the household in the coming year. A coin, bread, evergreen, coal, and a wee dram of whisky all symbolize best wishes and hoped-for prosperity for his hosts. When the gifts have been given, the party begins. Dancing, feasting, singing, fireworks...the Scots are serious about their Hogmany celebrations.

In Scotland, the celebration of the New Year and first-footing is so big, that January 2nd is also a national holiday. They need a day to recover from the revelry of welcoming in their 'first footer.'

How do you celebrate the New Year? Who was your 'first-footer' this year?

Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she married her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.comwhere you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at where she spends way too much time!


  1. Fun post! Thanks! Isn't it sad that we haven't had a visitor into our home yet this year?

    1. Connie, I hope that first visitor arrives with gifts! :) In the best 'first footer' tradition!

    2. My grandma died in 1984 when she was 92. She believed in first-footer. I was told she usually had her son, who lived next door and was tall with dark hair, come to her house early on January 1st. My cousin Vera once told me she and her brother visited her on Jan 1st once and Grandma made Vera's brother come in first. Grandma's husband was of Scotch-Irish descent.

    3. I love that these Old World traditions lived on in your family, Janet! So cool!