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First footing

Posted by Shae on January 01, 2004

In Reply to: More good luck stuff for New Year's posted by ESC on January 01, 2004


The late Kevin Danaher described some Irish New Year customs, most of which seem to involve dashing bread against doors:
'A cake is thrown against the outside of each door by the head of the family, which ceremony is said to keep out hunger during the ensuing [year].'

'On the eve of the Twelfth day a large loaf called the "Christmas Loaf" which is usually baked some days prviously, is laid with great solemnity on the table; the doors and windows are closed and strongly bolted; and one of the family generally the housewife, then takes the loaf, and pounding it against the closed doors, etc. repeats three times, in Irish, the following Rann:

[translation] We banish famine
Out to the country of the Turks;
From tonight to a year from tonight,
And from this night forever'

'A very popular belief held that the first person or creature to enter the house after midnight [on New Year's Day] should be black or black-haired and also male to be lucky. To ensure their luck, many households sent out a suitably endowed member or friend before midnight to perfprm this office of lucky 'first footing' immediately after midnight.'

Kevin Danaher, 'The Year in Ireland,' Mercier Press, 1972

PS. I like his dedication to the book: 'To Anne, whose gracious silence made it possible.'