When you think New Year’s Eve celebrations, you might think of mobs in Times Square. But December 31st is a big night in Scotland too. There, it’s traditionally known as Hogmanay, a possible corruption of the French au guis menez (“to the mistletoe,” suggesting a Druidic origin). But whatever its name or origins, the celebration is essentially the same to this day—drinking toasts to the old year, counting down to the new, and tying on a few more after midnight. But a wonderful part of Scottish Hogmanay called “First Footing” is less common. In this ritual, the first person to put their foot across a threshold has the honor of bringing good fortune to the whole household. Sometimes, this metaphor for stepping through the door of a new year was accompanied by a handsel, a gift of a lump of coal or a bottle of whisky to symbolize the many gifts of the coming year. Warmth…whisky…who needs a Christmas sweater?
Discover more holiday lore in our Twelve Uncommon Facts About the Holidays post.