There is a wonderful New Year's tradition in Scotland called "First Footing". It's not exclusive to Scotland mind you, but the Scottish traditions are the ones I was raised on and so those are the ones I follow. There are various components to a First Footer's toolkit, but the basics are this:
- The first person across your threshold in the New Year signals good or bad luck for the coming year. A tall, dark, handsome man bearing the appropriate gift will signal good luck.
- The gift is for the household and traditionally the gift is coin (for prosperity), bread (for food), salt (for flavour), coal (for warmth) or whiskey (for good cheer). Whatever the history of the Hogmanay please believe me when I tell you that whiskey is always appropriate. :)
My Grandmother was born and raised in Scotland and emigrated to Canada at the age of 18. She married a man from Darlington (although most people forgave her for this) and they settled in Fort William, Ontario. They lived in a community of Scottish immigrants and maintained the traditions she knew from the old country.
On this night they were feeling quite alone and unhappy because New Year's was a very big deal to them but they couldn't celebrate it as they were accustomed without the people they felt close to. Unbeknownst to them, about 2 miles away was (and is) the Seaforth Armoury, home to the Regimental Headquarters of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.
The Regiment had a large New Year's Eve party that night and a bit of whiskey may have been consumed. After midnight the party started to break up and a couple of officers decided to walk home (well they weren't feeling the cold I assure you). After walking for a time they split up and one continued on his way.
Around about 1:00 am he had a sudden stroke of genius. It was New Year's Day. He was tall, dark and considered handsome and he just happened to have a bottle of whiskey in his hand. He decided to First Foot somebody. This officer didn't know anybody on the street but he didn't think that was a problem. He chose the first house with the lights shining in the windows, went up to the door and knocked.
Since I'm telling this story, you've probably figured out who was in this particular house. My grandparents heard the knock at the door and went to see who it was. Through the glass in the door my Scottish Grandmother saw a tall, dark Seaforth Highlanders officer in full regalia clutching a bottle of whiskey.
They welcomed him inside, shared a drink and then waved goodbye wishing him a safe journey. They never forgot that night and the wonderful gift of feeling at home they had received.
The lesson our family learned from this is that what you consider a small kindness to a stranger may be much more important to them than you will ever realize. Fate or serendipity may play a hand, but we are the instruments.
The other lesson we learned, of course, is that being Scottish on New Year's Eve is one of the truly great blessings in any life. :)
I wish you all a First Foot by a tall, dark handsome man. I wish you all a New Year filled with prosperity, food, flavour, warmth and good cheer. Most of all, I wish you all a New Year filled with showing kindness to strangers in Second Life and Real Life. You will be repaid in countless ways.
A guid New Year to ane an' a' and mony may ye see
- The uniform worn in these pictures is a very, very, very rough approximation of the uniform worn by the Seaforth Highlanders. My apologies to all military experts and all members of the Regiment!
- Ahuva Heliosense gets credit for finding me a label and a whiskey bottle (and Dale Innis gets credit for making the bottle). She also found me the street for my Highlander photos. I consider this opportunity to teach her another tradition to be my repayment. :)