Putting your best foot forward

5th January 2021

Well here we are again. At the threshold of another year following a year that defies any easy description. We’ve all experienced it so I’ll leave that there and move on to the subject of this blog: putting your best foot forward. But first, for the craic, while the year is nascent, the New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay traditions of first footing.

Hogmanay

As this article from Historic UK on the history of Hogmanay points out, it’s arguable that the Scots put more energy and enthusiasm into their Hogmanay celebrations than most. But we should point out that the first footing element of Hogmanay also happens in the north of England and on the Isle of Man. Further, the Greeks have a version called pothariko, the Georgians Mekvle and the Serbians Polaznik – though that one on Christmas Day rather than at year’s end. The Swedes too have a similar ritual. That’s not so surprising though, given that there’s a big chance that traditional Hogmanay celebrations came to Scotland with the invading Vikings in the early 8th and 9th centuries.

The history of Hogmanay tells us that these Norse invaders paid much attention to the arrival of the winter solstice – the shortest day – celebrating its passing with some hardcore partying. One could argue not much has changed there! The Viking influence remains strong in Shetland and the islanders continue to call new year Yules. Or Jul as it is in the Scandinavian languages with the J having a Y sound. No question that’s the origin of yule log and yuletide.

But why the Scottish emphasis on New Year rather than Christmas?

If you’ve ever wondered why new year, rather than Christmas, is such a big deal to our friends the other side of Hadrian’s Wall, here’s why.  Christmas wasn’t celebrated as a festival and saw an almost total ban in Scotland for a good 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s. As for why – look no further than the Protestant Reformation. Then, the pious Kirk (Church) proclaimed Christmas a Catholic feast. So that got Christmas right off the table. As it were.

Thus, right up until the 1950s Christmas in Scotland was a day like any other. They worked over Christmas and celebrated their winter solstice at new year. Then, family and friends gathered together for a party and exchange of presents known as hogmanays.  I confess until writing this blog I was woefully ignorant of this fact. Did you know?

Thus, right up until the 1950s Christmas in Scotland was a day like any other. They worked over Christmas and celebrated their winter solstice at new year. Then, family and friends gathered together for a party and exchange of presents known as hogmanays.  I confess until writing this blog I was woefully ignorant of this fact. Did you know?

Anyway – mention of Hogmanay cannot of course pass without speaking of first footing.

start within a circle showing the months and the winter solstice

First Footing

The first footing tradition – or someone being the first foot in the house after midnight – remains common across Scotland. It comprises a good luck totem entering the house in the form of a dark-haired male bearing symbolic coal cobbles, shortbread, salt, a black bun and, of course a wee whisky dram. Like as not the dark-haired male element stems from the Viking days. After all, back then it would be reasonable to assume that a hairy, axe-wielding Viking crossing your threshold was anything but lucky!

Now for a tenuous(ish) segue from first footing to putting your best foot forward.

Of course, that phrase has a metaphorical meaning with connotations of self-care and putting a brave face on a situation and all such things. Yet in this instance I want to give mention to putting your best foot forward in the literal sense with buffed and super-soft feet.

In the bleak mid-winter

We’re in the middle of it now – and oh doesn’t winter play havoc with our feet? At the best of times the skin on our feet is drier than the rest of our bodies. But the colder months are something else, the natural oils in our feet evaporate and they get drier still.

So, in the nick of time, and to celebrate both first footing and veganuary we have a great offer to put the twinkle back into your toes. Throughout January we’re running a foot butter and foot scrub deal.

Buy our 50ml organic and vegan soothing foot butter for £13.50 and get a 50g pot of organic and vegan foot scrub (normally £8) absolutely FREE.

Simply use the code FREESCRUB at the checkout and give a winter treat to your toes.

Putting your best foot forward - feet being massaged

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