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TAKE A TRADITIONAL FIRST STEP INTO THE NEXT CENTURY

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<div> <UL> <LI>With Picture </UL> <UL> <LI>By PR Newswire Staff Writer. </UL> <P> With the coming of the millennium and its glittering promise of a growing hi-tech age, it's reassuring to know that the old tradition of `First Footing' is still very much alive in modern Britain. </P> <P> A new survey shows that nearly a third of people in Britain say that First Footing continues to play a part in their New Year celebrations. </P> <P> The greatest number of followers of the First Footing tradition (when the first person over your threshold after the clock has chimed midnight on December 31 brings you good luck for the coming year), are in the North East (58%) followed by Scotland (52%). It is least practised in the South West (11%) and the South East (14%). </P> <P> With nearly a third of people already enjoying First Footing, over half also said they believed age old traditions like it should play a part in the new millennium with 43% of 16-24 year olds agreeing. Support for the idea was strongest in Scotland (71%) and surprisingly in the South West (68%) where it is practised the least. </P> <P> The classic form of First Footing means everyone waits for the knock on the door and when it is opened, over the threshold comes the `First Foot' - by tradition a tall, dark man with gifts in his hand to bring the house and everyone in it good luck for the next 12 months. </P> <P> Jennifer Chandler of The Folklore Society which is based at University College, London, and is the first organisation in the world devoted to the study of traditional culture, says First Footing is based on the old European superstition that what you are doing at the beginning of the year determines your luck. </P> <P> What is unlucky is for the First Foot caller to come empty handed so symbols of warmth, food and wealth were carried. Wealth could be represented by a silver coin or salt, vital for preserving food in the days before refrigeration. </P> <P> In England the food was normally bread but regional variations ranged from red herrings in the East Neuk of Fife fishing villages, mince piecs in Sheffield to Black Bun in Scotland - a rich fruit cake encased in pastry. Sometimes the food was replaced with drink - a glass of wine in Staffordshire and whisky in Scotland. </P> <P> But of all the symbols the one most regularly included was coal, not only because is was the basis of family life giving them warmth and fuel for cooking but also because it has always been seen as being lucky - soldiers carrying it into battle with them and children taking pieces into exams. </P> <P> Equally varied is the type of person doing the First Footing. Long ago it could have been a chance caller but now people make sure of their luck. Often a member of the family or someone at a New Year's party will go outside before midnight to come back to perform the ceremony, or a neighbour or friend is enlisted. In most places the First Foot will be a man but in some parts women are preferred. </P> <P> The First Foot (or Lucky Bird as they were called in Yorkshire), was rewarded with food and drink and so good was the welcome that in Edinburgh fights would break out among youths competing for First Foot rights in prosperous neighbourhoods. </P> <P> There's also a host of variable First Foot rules. In areas of England and Scotland the First Foot must not speak until he or she has placed a piece of coal or evergreen branch on the fire. But in other places things were far noisier. In the Staffordshire Black Country the First Foot would run through the house shouting `Please to let the New Year in'. In County Durham they would exclaim `Happy New Year t'ye! God send ye plenty! Where ye have one pound note, I wish ye may have twenty.' </P> <P> Whatever the variations, this year anyone wanting to celebrate First Footing and enter the new century with the security of an age-old tradition has it all made easy for them! </P> <P> Coalite, the UK's leading brand of smokeless coal, has produced a special Millennium First Foot presentation pack containing a piece of British mined coal, a silver coin, a sachet of salt and a miniature bottle of Scotch whisky millennium blend. </P> <P> Priced at &amp;pound;4.99 which includes post and packing, and ideal as a Christmas present and stocking filler, it is available by mail order from Coalite Offer, PO Box 4021, Glasgow G52 4WB. </P> <P> Jennifer Chandler says: &amp;quot;As a gesture of goodwill and a bit of seasonal fun, First Footing takes some beating. What kinder sentiments can there be than those of the First Foot who puts a coal on a neighbour's fire and says `May your hearth never grow cold.&amp;quot;' </P> <P> Notes to Editors: The survey was conducted by Audience Selection October 29-31 among 1000 adults aged 16 or over. </P> <P> A picture accompanying this release is available in the PR Newswire folder on the PA Bulletin Board. There is no charge for using the feature or picture. </P> </div>

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