Once the clock strikes midnight and the new year arrives, did you know it's often considered bad luck for anyone to leave the house? (Not even to take out the garbage and the empties!) Instead, many people still wait for the “first footer” to arrive – the very first person to cross the threshold and enter your home in the New Year. Who that first footer is will influence your luck for the next twelve months! 

This belief in the importance of the "first footer" is found in a surprising number of cultures all over the globe! In Vietnam, the first person through the door influences the family's prosperity for the entire year. A person of great prestige, success or integrity is actively sought to be their first footer. (At New Year's, no one visits a home uninvited!) You'll find the same tradition in Greece, where the first footer is specially selected. Once he's crossed the threshold after midnight, the lady of the house gives treats and sometimes coins to all of the guests to ensure good fortune.

For maximum good luck in Ireland, a dark-haired man should be first through the door. If he’s handsome and single, so much the better. And it’s really lucky if he arrives on a horse! (I'd have story material for the whole year after an entrance like that!) 

As with many first footer traditions, the man should bring a few symbolic gifts such as:
      some silver coins
      a loaf of bread
      a lump of coal or peat for the fire
      a branch of evergreen
      a bag or bowl of salt 

Ideally, the man will make his way through the entire house and then leave by a different door. 

So who wouldn't make a good first footer? In some parts of the British Isles, it was considered very bad luck for your first visitor after midnight to be a woman! A fair-haired man wasn't always welcome either  too much like the Viking invaders of old. Other first footer rejects included people with red hair, doctors, ministers, thieves, grave-diggers, or anyone with crossed eyes or flat feet. Also on the "no" list was anyone whose eyebrows met in the middle of their forehead – it was thought to be a sign of being a werewolf! (The Macleod family from my Changeling series would find this rather insulting.) Any such visitors would be shooed away from the doorstep or made to wait until someone more desirable had entered the house first.  

In most countries with a first footer tradition, it's critical for the very first traffic across the threshold to be headed IN rather than OUT. (Remember what I said about taking out the garbage? DON'T DO IT!) The symbolism is simple  it's desirable for people and prosperity to flow towards your home during the year to come. 

My favorite "first footer" tradition of all is said to come from the southern United States. The sex of the first visitor through the door doesn't influence prosperity, but is said to shape the balance of power in a marriage for the coming year. If a man enters, then the husband will have more power. If it's a woman, the wife will be the more powerful partner.

As for myself, I think I'd invite a couple who had been happily married for many years to step over the threshold at the same time. I think that would be the luckiest thing of all!

Wishing you a positive, safe, happy New Year -- and an adventure or two for fun!

Dani Harper


Last week's Christmas Superstitions included The Good, the Bad and the Scary. This week’s installment brings you some traditions that are downright creepy! They may not be true, but there's bound to be at least a couple that will give you a chill just the same.

Dogs that howl on Christmas Eve will go mad before the end of the year. A candle or a lamp should be kept burning all night on Christmas Eve to avoid a death in the house in the following year.

Instead of water turning into wine at midnight on Christmas Eve, some hold the belief that the water in streams and wells turns into blood! Not only that, if you witness this change, you’ll die within the year!

A Scandinavian belief maintains that it's dangerous to go out on Christmas Eve because of the many supernatural beings that come out of their hiding places that night. Trolls, witches, goblins and ghosts are said to roam freely, including the spirits of the dead revisiting their previous homes. Gifts must be left outside – bowls of pudding and cream, clothes, tobacco and even ale – in order to appease some of these creatures. The most perilous time occurs between cock’s crow and dawn, when supernatural beings are at the peak of their power. To go outside means risking death or being carried off by them, never to be seen again.

Swedish folklore puts a chilling twist on this story. On Christmas Eve, they prepare their dining room with food and ale and blazing fire – and leave it overnight to enable the spirits of the dead to celebrate undisturbed. The family checks the chairs in the morning for traces of earth, proof that the dead have come calling!

Icelandic children lived in fear of being eaten by bloodthirsty ogres living in the mountains. The most ferocious of these was Mother GrĂ½la, who wandered through the village at Christmastime with her evil cat.

Instead of leaving out cookies for Santa, gifts and food had to be left out to appease the ogres. If they didn't like the offerings, they'd eat you. And if you didn't have at least one brand new article of clothing in honor of the season – the cat would eat you!

A once popular parlor game gave everyone an apple after dinner, which was then cut in half across the middle to reveal the pattern of the core. If the core is star-shaped (most apples have this), the owner of the apple will see another Christmas. If the core is a different shape, the owner’s death will occur in the next twelve months! The appearance of a four-pointed cross was worst of all – although what was worse than death is never mentioned.

Parlor games in Victorian England also included telling ghost stories by the fire, while keeping tabs on everyone’s shadow throughout the evening. If anyone’s shadow were to appear headless, that person would die within the coming year.

While most cultures consider it lucky to be born on Christmas, others definitely do not. In Greece, any child born during the 12 days of Christmas is in danger of morphing into a kallikantzaroi, a malevolent half-animal, half-human monster that lives underground most of the year. Such a creature will almost certainly devour his own brothers and sisters!

In Romania, Poland and Moldova, a child born on Christmas Day may become a werewolf. A different variation on this tale is that any child conceived during Advent (when parents apparently were supposed to abstain from such activities) was almost certainly doomed to become a were-animal by the time they reached adulthood. In some Slavic regions, a child be born anywhere between Christmas and Ephiphany will surely become a vampire after death.

To avoid bad luck, all Christmas decorations should be taken down by Candlemas (Feb. 2). However, make sure you clean up after them – every needle left behind in the house from the Christmas tree will cause the sighting of a spirit or a demon in the coming year. Some believe a stray needle or berry will result in a death in the family. (A good case for having an artificial tree!)

The danger isn't over once the decorations are down because a Christmas tree thrown outside will attract the attention of evil spirits and supernatural beings. For proper disposal, the tree must be burned immediately.

An old Breton tale tells the story of a blacksmith who refused to stop working after the church bell had rung for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Suddenly a tall man entered his shop with a scythe that needed mending.

The blacksmith did the work but the mysterious man refused to pay him. Instead, he told the blacksmith to send for a priest because this work would be the last he would ever do. By the time the roosters crowed on Christmas morning, the blacksmith was dead. He had mended the Scythe of the Grim Reaper himself.

Wishing you a merry-not-too-scary holiday season!

Dani Harper


'Tis the season to dust off my favorite blogs of Christmases past!  Hope you enjoy this fun rerun!

As you know, I just can’t resist anything related to the paranormal. But Christmas? Who would have suspected that there was anything supernatural about such a warm fuzzy holiday?

I had a lot of fun researching Christmas superstitions and I was amazed by how MANY there were! In fact, there’s so much material I’ve decided to blog twice about this topic. Here then is the first installment. (By the way, here's the official disclaimer -- Remember, these are folktales and traditions, and not intended to be taken as truth!)

The Good….

Unmarried girls can cut a twig from a cherry tree on St. Barbora’s Day (Dec. 4th) and put it in water. If it blooms by Christmas Eve, marriage will follow within the year. Counting the stars on Christmas Eve will foretell the number of sheaves in your harvest. And if you see the sun shining through the limbs of the apple trees on Christmas Day, there’ll be an abundance of fruit the following year.

If you dream on any of the 12 nights between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan. 6), your dreams will come true in the next year. The first person in the household to hear a rooster crow or anyone who hears a cricket chirp on Christmas Day is going to have a very lucky year. Good luck follows those who give money to the poor on Christmas Day, to those who eat their breakfast by candlelight, and to those who stir the Christmas pudding.

The Bad….

Bad, bad fortune follows those who leave the dishes unwashed on Christmas Eve (and that’s on top of what Mom will do to you!). On Christmas Day, it’s unlucky to leave the dinner table before everyone has finished. A full moon on Christmas predicts a scanty harvest in the year to come. If Christmas Day falls on a Thursday, a year of windy weather is forecast.

On Christmas Eve it’s said that you can hear the bells of lost churches that have been covered by floods or buried by landslides and earthquakes. Picking up nuts or fruit from the ground will bring bad luck. So will sending carolers away without treats or money. And you really don’t want to be the first one home from church!

And the Scary….

A piece of winter greenery (holly, mistletoe, evergreen, etc.) must be brought into your home during the Christmas season, to keep away evil spirits. However, every winter leaf left in the house after Candlemas (Feb. 2) will result in the sighting of a ghost, or perhaps even a death in the house during the coming year! Mistletoe must be burned, or those who kissed beneath it will become enemies.

Those born on Christmas Day are rumored to be able to see ghosts and spirits. And those who are born on Christmas Eve are said to turn into ghosts themselves on that day every year! (Wow, this sounds more like Halloween, doesn’t it?) The only way to avoid this odd fate is to remain awake the entire night until Christmas Day dawns.

That's all for this post. Watch for more on Christmas superstitions!

Dani Harper


The timing of the Winter Warm-Up Blog Hop couldn't be more perfect -- the WINTER SOLSTICE falls on Sunday, December 21 this year.

Hosted by Hops with Heart
The Solstice, known for centuries as Yule, marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. It also marks the point at which the days begin to lengthen and light will increase. Our ancestors rejoiced in the return of the sun, seeing it as a rebirth of life as well as light. We get pretty excited about it too! 

The word Yule is likely from an old Nordic word for wheel. With the coming of Yule, the “wheel of the year” has rolled around to its beginning once more.  

We still refer to the Christmas season as Yuletide, and many of the old traditions associated with the solstice have lived on. There are too many to list, but I've touched on a few favorites. See if you recognize them!

Don't forget to head on down to the bottom and enter my giveaway, plus check out some of the 140+ sites which are also featuring goodies and giveaways. 

Note -- don't forget to ALSO enter for the GRAND PRIZE: a $75 Amazon Gift Card! The link is at the bottom of this post.  Many thanks to HOPS WITH HEART at for hosting this event!

The Yule Log

Decorative yule logs gradually replaced the fireplace logs.
Medieval tradition tells of an enormous log – commonly ash or oak – placed in the fireplace on the solstice. It was decorated with evergreens and kindled with the carefully saved remains of last year’s Yule log. The wood would burn all night, then be allowed to smolder for the following 12 days. Pouring ale or wine on the log was customary. So was sprinkling flour or breadcrumbs on it, or even placing coins on the log. All were said to bring good fortune, and the blackened coins were later given as gifts.

A Yule Cake

Later, as large fireplaces fell out of fashion, small logs were decorated in a similar way and holes were bored into the wood to hold candles, which would be burned for 12 nights. The French were the first to create an edible Yule log, and Victorian confectioners made these Yule cakes famous. You can still find them in bakery departments today.

The Yule Tree

Celtic customs are said to have called for the decorating of sacred oak trees. The Celts and many other peoples also held evergreens to be symbolic of immortality, of continuing life in the midst of death. In the coldest, darkest and dreariest of winters, evergreens held forth hope of returning spring. Throughout many cultures and over countless centuries, homes have been decorated with evergreen boughs and other winter greenery.

The practice of decorating trees dates back to before Roman times. The trees were not cut down and brought into the house, however, but left alive and decorated wherever they grew with trinkets, trophies, sacred plants such as holly and mistletoes, bits of metal and sometimes replicas of gods and goddesses.

The Yuletide Wreath

Wreaths have symbolized the wheel of the year since ancient times, and the word wreath comes from the Old English writhen, meaning "to twist".  In many European countries, evergreen wreaths were lit with candles during the darkest winter days, symbolizing hope that light would return. Holly wreaths were said to ward off the evil spirits that abounded during the darkness of midwinter, and holly might be kept near the door all year long to invite good fortune.

Yule Goat made of straw
The Yule Goat

The what?  Honest, I'll bet you've seen one and not known what it was. The Yule Goat or Julbock was central to solstice traditions in Scandinavia and northern Europe. I could write an entire blog post about the fascinating Yule goat, but I'll keep it short this time....

Goats were originally slaughtered as offerings during Yule, but later, goats made of straw were created annually and either burned or used as decorations. Straw goats are now keepsakes in families, as well as popular tourist souvenirs!

Other Winter Solstice traditions

Many people celebrate by staying awake throughout the night of the solstice so they can watch the sunrise the following day. Others wake early to observe the daybreak and dawn of a new cycle. Bonfires are usually lit to simulate the ascent of the sun and sometimes herbs such as sage are thrown into the blaze. Candles are allowed to burn throughout the day. Gifts are often exchanged as part of the midwinter celebrations, and stories told of ghosts and fairies. (I like that one!)
Songs are sung, especially carols such as Deck the Halls which mention Yule specifically. Toasts are made and, in some places, groups dress up in costumes and go “wassailing”, which is very much like caroling. “Wassail” comes from an Anglo-Saxon toast for “Be Well” or “Be Healthy”. In modern times, the revelers go door to door, carrying “Wassail cups” that will hopefully be filled at each house. The traditional wassail drink is usually hot spiced cider, with or without alcohol.

LOVE and the Solstice

Winter Solstice is a time for renewal, and this includes relationships. The longest night of the year has great potential for couples. An extra-long evening of making love is a great way to reaffirm your bond! (Hey, I'm a romance author, I can say things like that, LOL)

It's also a time of new beginnings for those seeking love. Some traditions suggest going outside to meet the solstice at the right time (that's 6:03 PM Eastern Time in the USA). No special words are required, just a heartfelt wish. 

One old tradition calls for two mirrors to be placed on a table facing each other, with a lit candle set between them. The mirrors will reflect each other and reflect the candle multiple times. Look in one of the mirrors and count until you find the seventh reflection of the candle on the glass. It's said that you will see your true love in that spot.

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CHRISTMAS WONDER GIVEAWAY HOP ---- Dani Harper's Post + Giveaway

As much as I don't like snow, 
I have to admit that winter is the PERFECT time for both reading and writing. 

I'm working hard on my Christmas release, a total rewrite of THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT. 
But after that, I have a list of books just waiting for my undivided attention!

Dani's Personal Reading List for the Holidays:

These aren't new releases --- I'm WAY too far behind in my TBR pile for that! Instead, most of these are books I've looked forward to catching up on. As you can see, I have a well-rounded selection of romance, fantasy and reality. My four selections include two paranoramals (vampires and werewolves) and two non-paranormals (cowboys and rural southern survival)

1. Bloodshot by Cherie Priest  
Raylene Pendle (AKA Cheshire Red), a vampire and world-renowned thief, doesn’t usually hang with her own kind. She’s too busy stealing priceless art and rare jewels. But when the infuriatingly charming Ian Stott asks for help, Raylene finds him impossible to resist—even though Ian doesn’t want precious artifacts. He wants her to retrieve missing government files—documents that deal with the secret biological experiments that left Ian blind. What Raylene doesn’t bargain for is a case that takes her from the wilds of Minneapolis to the mean streets of Atlanta. And with a psychotic, power-hungry scientist on her trail, a kick-ass drag queen on her side, and Men in Black popping up at the most inconvenient moments, the case proves to be one hell of a ride.

2. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell 
Ree Dolly's father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dollys will lose their house if he doesn't show up for his next court date. With two young brothers depending on her, 16-year-old Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive. Living in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks, Ree learns quickly that asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake. But, as an unsettling revelation lurks, Ree discovers unforeseen depths in herself and in a family network that protects its own at any cost.

3. A SEAL Wolf Christmas by Terry Spear
Navy SEAL Bjornolf Jorgenson has had tough missions before, but going undercover with feisty gray wolf Anna Johnson could top the list. She drives him crazy—in more ways than one. Now he has to investigate a murder, supervise a wild teenage wolf—and handle Christmas with Anna.
For Anna, the only thing worse than staging the perfect family Christmas is having to do it with Bjornolf posing as her husband. Anna is a serious undercover operative who isn't afraid of a fight, even with a hunky SEAL shifter. With a killer on the loose, Anna just wants to focus on their mission, but the one thing she can't fight is her sizzling chemistry with Bjornolf.

4. Wrestlin' Christmas by Shanna Hatfield
Sidelined with a major injury, steer wrestler Cort McGraw struggles to come to terms with the end of his career. Shanghaied by his sister and best friend, he finds himself on a run-down ranch with a worrisome, albeit gorgeous widow, and her silent, solemn son.
Five minutes after Cort McGraw lands on her doorstep, K.C. Peters fights to keep a promise she made to herself to stay away from single, eligible men. When her neighbor said he knew just the person to help work her ranch for the winter, she never expected the handsome, brawny former rodeo star to fill the position.
Ready to send him packing, her little boy has other plans.


December 1 to 31st

Here's my Rafflecopter giveaway! But be sure and visit ALL of the blogs to see what they love most about the season and which books have made their Christmas wish lists! There's a giveaway to enter at each stop! PLUS there's an overall GRAND PRIZE!

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