I conducted this interview over the phone, the subject was born and raised in Scotland before moving to England, Canada, the United States, then to Northern Ireland, and, finally, back to the United States. I knew she continued to practice certain traditions which were heavily present in her childhood and wanted to ask her more about them.
“I’ve learned this from my childhood, from Grandma and Grandpa. It’s this big tradition in Scotland, when you grow there it’s what you know. It is a New Year’s tradition, at midnight, we call it “when the bells ring” on Hogmanay, um you, either go first footing if you’re a young person, or you get a first foot, which means it’s the first person to step inside your house for the new year and they have to have dark hair. Usually they have a gift, nothing big, maybe a drink or something, to bring luck to the house, and they cannot, under any circumstance, have light or blonde hair.”
Interviewer: “Why do you carry this tradition?”
Subject: “Because I’ve been taught to believe that if you don’t do this, or have someone who’s blonde come in, then your year will have bad luck. This is purely Scottish.”
First-footing is a common practice in Scotland and Northern England. Some areas have more elaborate forms of this practice, such as in Worcestershire where you must stop a caroler and bring them inside. Sometimes the ritual must also be accompanied by some entertainment, such as with the caroler, or with a dance. It is considered unlucky to have a female, or a male with female-hair be the first-foot.
A resident of the home is allowed to be the first-foot, so long as they were not inside the home at the stroke of midnight. The gifts the first-food brings also vary, such as coin, bread, salt, alcoholic beverages, etc.