Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/317

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FIRST-FOOTING is enacted with great glee and vivacity in various parts of Scotland, but more especially so in Edinburgh. The origin of this nocturnal visit and welcome, and subsequent merrymaking, arose from marriage customs, mostly in Galloway and Wigtonshires, where marriages were generally celebrated on New Year's Day. About a century ago the young maidens of the district, who might be courting, would, on the approach of New Year's Eve, in a coaxing kind of a way, invite their sweethearts and companions to be their first-foot on New Year's morning; of course the hint was always readily accepted, and generally ending in due course by marriage on a subsequent New Year's Day; and even at the present time the custom is still kept up of domestic servants (and especially so in Edinburgh) inviting their sweethearts to be their first-foot—for good luck, and, if need be, for marriage. A dark-complexioned young man was always considered lucky, and a likely suitor. The mode and hour of visit of the first-foot was, as near as possible, just after midnight, and in some instances parties of young people would visit the favoured ones, and sometimes quite a carousal took place, drinking, eating, singing, and dancing, and sometimes ending in a fight between the jealous rivals, and thus breaking up the merry gathering.

The mode of visit, as I have said, was just after midnight. The family visited, of course, expected someone to be their first-foot, and had preparations made accordingly, in the shape of refreshments, and in some instances the household were aroused out of bed. In others the daughter or daughters were prepared for the nocturnal visitor or visitors, and thus the first-footer was not kept waiting