All over the UK, people are celebrating with age-old customs to welcome in the start of the New Year. But it’s not just fireworks and drinking, many will be taking part in curious activities such as bringing a piece of coal into the house or inviting in a dark-haired man.
So, for our latest Curiosity of the Week we will be looking at the tradition of First Footing.
But does First Footing mean? The phrase refers to the first foot to step over the threshold of a home in the New Year. It was thought that the first person to step into a home would be the bringer of good fortune, and many still carry out this custom today.
The tradition is perhaps best known in Scotland, but variations of First Footing have long been carried out across the UK. In Wales it is thought that a red-haired man or woman dressed in red will bring bad luck, whilst in Scotland a fair-haired person is the bearer of bad fortune.
In many places a dark-haired male is preferable as the first footer, and if he is bearing gifts such as coal, whisky or salt, then all the better! The gifts are said to symbolise prosperity and alcohol has long been used as a toast to the New Year. The coal is thought to represent warmth, and is perhaps one of the most common first footing traditions in the UK.
In Wales, New Year is often celebrated a bit later as many still use the old Julian Calendar. It was once common for groups of children and adults to call from door to door, singing and parading through the streets with a horse’s skull. There are only a handful of places still carrying out this Mari Llwyd tradition, with Chepstow’s being one of the most well-known.
There are plenty of other quirky New Year traditions still carried out in the UK, from swinging flaming fireballs to carrying burning tar barrels.
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