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First footing, an extreme sport

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Alexander Residence: First footing, an extreme sport

Sunday, 2 January 2011

First footing, an extreme sport

Yesterday I learnt the lengths people will go to bring in the New Year. I was quite happy with a glass or two of champers, some family bickering over board games and lots of hugging at midnight. Then a mysterious man knocked on my door on New Year's Day, asking for a cup of salt.

He said he was staying with my neighbours. I dutifully poured some salt into his cup but as he left the surrealness of the situation hit me. So I texted my neighbour to ask if it was a New Year's ritual. Also if so, wasn't he supposed to bring salt not take it?

Meanwhile we began to debate the tradition and etiquette of 'first footing'. My Mother in law remembered her husband bringing in the New Year in this Scottish tradition. How had the Alexander clan (we're not very Scottish really) allowed this tradition to lapse? Mr A was dutifully shoved out the back door with a sausage in one hand (he'd been making sausages butties for all 14 of us bless him) and a lump of coal in the other, to symbolise food and warmth. He was instructed to take the old year out the back door and bring the new one in the front door.

Mr A reappeared a minute later, through the back door, to much scorn and disgust.  He needed the key for the camper van which was blocking his exit down the side of the house. Undeterred by this obstacle he
climbed through the camper van boot and out the passenger door. He eventually rang the doorbell and we welcomed him in.

Mr G was very excited by the whole ritual and gave Mr A a huge hug. Lots of innuendos too, about letting my husband and his sausage in the front door.

After all that palaver my neighbour texted to say yes her guest was Scottish and had wanted the salt to first foot her house. So after much hungover bickering about what first footing consisted of, the mystery was solved. Why he didn't just tell me that's what the salt was for I don't know.

We're semi detached with our neighbours so I'm hoping this building is going to be a very lucky place to be this year.

Happy New Year! Hope it was a good one. Do you have any New Year rituals?

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At 2 January 2011 at 16:11 , Blogger Melaina25 said...

My husband always has to be the first-foot at his Grandma's house in Fife, Scotland as he is a dark haired man and it's good luck!

At 2 January 2011 at 21:14 , Blogger Kate said...

Very odd those Scots.

At 2 January 2011 at 21:29 , Anonymous @jencull said...

I love this idea and never heard of it called 'first footing'. There was a tradition in Ireland where you opened the back door to let the old year out and the front door to welcome the new year in, but nobody went out with food and coal (or climbed through a camper van *snickers*). Jen

At 2 January 2011 at 21:52 , Blogger Carrie said...

So, I just goggled this. I was the first in my house on New Years Day. Darn it. I am a short, blonde, woman. I need a do over! :-)

At 2 January 2011 at 22:56 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

Melaina 25 and Carrie - I glossed over that bit as both our first footers, like you two lovely ladies, were blonde...'A do over' that's a great expression, probably means something else in the UK ;)

Jen and Kate - good to get an Irish perspective ;)

At 3 January 2011 at 10:14 , Blogger Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

My husband is Scottish and his parents have retired down here in England so we first-footed them (is that grammatically correct?) on New Year's Day. Husband took a bottle of whisky with him which he said, according to tradition, his father should take a drink out of but that we should bring it back home with us for good luck! I think he may have been making the last bit up.

At 5 January 2011 at 21:34 , Anonymous Honest Mum said...

Really educational post. I know the Greeks believe it's bad luck if people don't eat in their house. Perhaps that's why they force feed everyone!

At 11 January 2011 at 21:09 , Anonymous Kerry's mum said...

I tried to get V to do it, but he looked at me like I was mad. It has always been tradition in our house that you put food on the table and money in your pocket and a dark haired man takes the old year out the back door and brings the new year in the front door on the stroke of midnight. All the ladies line up with a drink and everybody gets big hugs. I always thought it was a Liverpool thing as that's where I was born and wherever I have lived no-one else seemed to do it!...

At 11 January 2011 at 22:41 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

Trish - yep I think this is a tradition that's open to being exploited...
Honest Mum - I love greek food, I love that tradition.
Kerry's mum - I love the Liverpool take on it, will make sure I get a drink next time!

At 14 October 2011 at 07:33 , Anonymous adventure racing said...

Oh! I haven't really heard this kind of tradition. It sounds weird but since different country do have different traditions too.


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