Hogmanay is what we Scots call New Year’s Eve – December 31 – the big night that marks the arrival of the New Year. Its origins reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Vikings with wild parties in late December.
Having a Hogmanay party and want to improve your chances for good luck in 2018? Try “First footing” (or the “first foot” in the house after midnight) is still common across Scotland.
Find an appropriate candidate to be the First Foot. Traditionally, the “luckiest” person to enter a house in the New Year is a tall, dark-haired man. If you have a friend or family member fitting that description, ask them to participate. If they’re not considerably tall or their hair is medium-dark, that’s OK, too. However, it is considered unlucky to choose a blond or red-headed person as a First Foot. The dark male bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blonde or red-headed stranger arriving on your door step with a big axe meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year!
Assemble gifts for the First Foot to bring into the house. These generally include small items that represent the wishes for the new year, i.e. a piece of coal for a warm hearth, bread and salt for all in the house to be fed adequately, a coin for financial prosperity, and a drink (commonly whisky) to represent good cheer.
Send your First Foot outside before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Since this can mean being somewhat excluded from the first hoorays and “Happy New Year’s!” wishes, you can find a loophole and have everyone else standing inside with the door open and your First Foot outside when midnight strikes. The First Foot may also be accompanied by others (a group could go outside), as long as he is the first to step over the threshold after midnight and some people are inside to open the door.
Have your First Foot knock on the door after midnight. Three knocks are traditional, but they can knock however they please.
Open the door for the First Foot.
Have your First Foot step over the threshold with “A Happy New Year and Good Tidings to you and yours”. The First Foot will then hand the gifts to the keeper(s) of the household and accept a drink (typically whisky) from them to toast with them. All guests may have their glasses filled beforehand to join in the toast (traditionally “Slaínte!”). It is considered unlucky to either not offer the First Foot a drink or for them to decline it. If your First Foot does not drink alcohol, offer a different beverage instead. This is symbolic of accepting blessings and “inviting good luck to stay”.
Continue your celebration however you see fit and as long as you see fit!
Info garnered from Visit Scotland, Wikihow, and Slate.