New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for assessing the past twelve months and for looking ahead to the New Year. Numerous customs are still retained in Europe and the United States, including the idea of kindling a new light from the old. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including the following simple ceremony.
At a few minutes to midnight, put out all of your lights except for a single candle or a lantern (it’s important that the light be a living one rather than electric). Send someone outside (traditionally it is someone who has dark hair) with the light, which they must guard and protect from the weather. As the clock strikes twelve have that person knock on the door. Open it and welcome them in with some form of ceremonial greeting, such as:
Welcome to the light of the New Year
And welcome he/she who brings it here.
Go around the house with the candle and relight all the lights you put out. If these can be candles so much the better, but don’t burn the house down In Scotland this custom is known as “First Footing,” and the person who first puts his or her foot across the door is the one who brings fortune to the whole household. Often someone in the house arranges with a friend to come to the house at the exact time carrying a gift – called a handsel in Scotland and consisting of a lump of coal, or a bottle of whiskey – something that will ensure that more gifts come throughout the next twelve months.
Source: The Winter Solstice
First Footing Lore:
Ideally, he should be dark-haired, tall, and good-looking, and it would be even better if he came bearing certain small gifts such as a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, a sprig of evergreen, and some salt.
Blonde and redhead first footers bring bad luck, and female first footers should be shooed away before they bring disaster down on the household. Aim a gun at them if you have to, but don’t let them near your door before a man crosses the threshold.
The first footer (sometimes called the “Lucky Bird”) should knock and be let in rather than unceremoniously use a key, even if he is one of the householders.
After greeting those in the house and dropping off whatever small tokens of luck he has brought with him, he should make his way through the house and leave by a different door than the one through which he entered.
No one should leave the premises before the first footer arrives – the first traffic across the threshold must be headed in rather than striking out.
First footers must not be cross-eyed or have flat feet or eyebrows that meet in the middle.
Nothing prevents the cagey householder from stationing a dark-haired man outside the home just before midnight to ensure the speedy arrival of a suitable first footer as soon as the chimes sound.
If one of the partygoers is recruited for this purpose, impress upon him the need to slip out quietly just prior to the witching hour.