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first-footer n

[nEngl and Scots dial; cf EDD, SND]

The first person to enter a home on New Year’s Day; a visitor on New Year’s Day or another special occasion; also first-footing visiting or being the first to enter a home on New Year’s Day.

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  • 1961 Sackett–Koch KS Folkl. 187, New Year’s Day custom called “first-footing,” which consisted of taking a basket containing wine and fruitcake and calling on all your friends early in the morning New Year’s Day and having a drink of wine and a piece of fruitcake at each house.
  • 1967 Cerello Dakota Co. MN 58, This shortbread is like my grandmother made to give to first footers when they came to call on Hogmanay. . . When we were first married and moved to Coates we had forty first footers call on us our first weekend in town. . . There was always something special about greeting first footers after the new year had begun. [Cerello: A custom brought by the Scotch-Irish settlers in the 1870s; now obsolescent.]
  • 1967 DARE Tape
    • MN2, Dad used to do what they always called first-footing. On New Year’s he would be the first one to come in the door. . . And he would go out and come in with a bottle of wine and some pennies and some biscuits or cookies or something and shortbread most of the time in his hand and then he’d give everybody a penny; that was supposed to be luck. And they had kind of a superstition about who was to be the first-footer; they didn’t want just anybody to be, they wanted somebody who was lucky to be the first-footer. Dad was pretty lucky about winning things, and so he was usually the one that did the first-footing in our home.