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.
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.
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!