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National First-Foot Day

National First-Foot Day marks the new year custom of first-foot, which is part of the folklore of Scotland and Northern England, with variations of it existing elsewhere. In this tradition, the first person who steps into the home of a household following the start of a new year is viewed as a bringer of good fortune for the coming year. This person cannot be someone who was in the house when midnight struck; they need to be someone who was outside of it and has stepped back in. It is permissible for them to be an occupant of the house.

There are regional differences as to who brings good luck. In some locations, a tall, dark-haired male is desired to be the first-foot, and a fair-haired male or a female is seen as being unlucky. This goes back to the notion that blonde strangers are Viking invaders. In order to bring good fortune, a first-foot usually must bring gifts. Coins represent financial prosperity (with silver specifically seen as bringing good luck), bread—such as shortbread or a black bun—represents food, salt represents flavor, coal represents warmth, an evergreen represents a long life, and a drink—usually whiskey–represents good cheer, and with it the new year is toasted.

In Scotland's tradition of the day, entertainment often follows. Group singing of "Auld Lang Syne" is commonplace with first-footing. Practices similar to the Stotch and English tradition take place in Sweden, the country of Georgia, Vietnam, and Greece—where it is called pothariko.

How to Observe

Observe the day by either being a first-foot or celebrating when a first-foot arrives at your home. If you decide to be a first foot, make sure that at midnight you are outside of the home you wish to enter. It can be your own home or the home of someone else. Items that you could bring with you when you enter include coins, shortbread, a black bun, salt, coal, and a drink, such as whiskey. After entering, you could make a toast and join with everyone in singing "Auld Lang Syne." If you are not the first-foot of your home, make sure that someone is designated to be, so that your home will be filled with fortune for the coming year.

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