Ensuring Good Fortune for 2016 - Tradition of the First Footer

While most folks may be thinking about what to wear, what to serve (and in my case, what to watch on TV!) for the advent of 2016, some will be taking steps to ensure their luck for the new year. 

For instance, 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!) 

In Ireland, it's luckiest to have a handsome,
dark-haired man enter your door after midnight!
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. Whoever 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! 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!) 

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 in advance. Once he's crossed the threshold after midnight, the lady of the house passes out treats and coins to all of the guests to ensure good fortune.

Bread and salt are traditional
gifts to ensure good luck.
As with many first footer traditions, the man should bring a few symbolic gifts with him such as:

      a loaf of bread
      a bag or bowl of salt 
      a lump of coal or peat for the fire
      a branch of evergreen
      some silver coins

Ideally, the first footer will make his way through the entire house and then leave by a different door. (And yes, the first footer may well have more than one house to visit!)

Sorry - red heads may have to
wait to get in!
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.  

Not even garbage should leave
the house on New Year's Day!
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? I know it's tough to resist but 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