Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Footing

On New Years Eve my family always celebrated Hogmanay (First Footing).

The Wikipedia version: 

This is a Scottish ritual of going out on New Years Eve and partying with all your neighbors. For good luck bring whiskey (preferred, but beer will do), a lump of coal for their fireplace and maybe a black muffin (fruitcake). And of course, it should all be delivered by a tall, dark and handsome man. Scots have a thing about "tall, dark, handsome men," maybe because so many are average-height redheads.

Now here's my family's version of First Footing: 

Before midnight gather all the cash you can find. Check books and credit cards count. Add fresh fruit, candy, bread, cheese, real butter, a ham (if you have one handy). Then take the filled basket and go out a back door. Walk around the house to the front door. A few minutes after midnight ring the bell. Someone lets you in and good luck (translation: food and money) will be coming in the door all year.

My first experience with First Footing was at the flat in Detroit with my great aunts, great uncle and great grandmother. I remember being exhausted waiting until midnight. Someone went out the front door, and came back in the front door (it was too scary to walk around the outside of the flat at night). I stayed up late for this? I was expecting something fun.

My mother and grandmother lived together for many years. One year, when my grandmother's short term memory was failing, she heard the doorbell ringing frantically. When she finally went to answer the front door she was totally surprised to find my frozen cranky mother standing there with a basket.

If it's true that what comes in the front door after the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve, comes in for the rest of the year, then for the next year everyone who came in their front door was pissed off. 

I still First Foot when I'm awake enough to stay up past midnight. My daughter, Sue, always First Foots. My son, Jim, doesn't, in fact his wife Bonnie had no idea what I was talking about when I asked her.


I lived with my grandparents for the 10th and 11th grades of high school. In art class we were doing contour drawing. It's a great way to develop good eye hand coordination. Keep your pencil on your paper. Try not to lift it. Now don't look at your paper, just follow the object you're drawing with your eyes and let your hand take the same direction. 

My grandmother posed for me. She held very still. She had her legs crossed and one foot was up. What can I say. That foot was the closest thing to me, closest things are biggest things. It was a great drawing. But when she saw it, she was furious. She tore up the drawing and stomped out of the room on her big feet. I can say this without guilt because my feet are bigger than hers ever dreamed of being.

However, she was very sensitive about her feet. When she was a young woman she bought shoes that were too tight, several pairs, in fact, because they were on sale. Basically she smashed her feet into those little shoes, and then suffered the rest of her life with crossed over toes and nasty bunions.


My New Years wish for all of you: may the first foot that crosses your threshold bare the symbolic goodies that will sustain you throughout the year, and may your feet be pain free to carry you wherever you wish to go.


  1. "First Footing" sounds sort of interesting, however, since I'm Italian, Pro Secco would be much more to my liking. This will be my first year in half a century that I won't partake in bubbly----doctor's orders!!
    Contour drawing really sounds wonderful and I'll surely attempt that.
    I'll lift a glass of orange juice to your grandmother and all women who have sacrificed their feet for BEAUTY (?) Ann A.

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