It's just past midnight. You have ritually welcomed the New Year with the standard bonhomie yet, perhaps, you're beginning to sense a twinge of disappointment. The champagne, the carousing, the familiar bleating of "Auld Lang Syne" are somehow leaving you feeling let down and apprehensive. Let Bijibou advance a suggestion - dismiss all concerns and prolong the joie de vivre with the customary Scottish tradition known as "first-footing", whereby you linger excited near the front door on the lookout for the first guest of 2013. Ideally someone dark, tall and handsome - I regret, no one name rushes to mind as an example - your first visitor directly after twelve a.m., the one who delightedly puts a "first foot" across your threshold, is the one most certain to bring you good luck for the coming year.
|Here, the effusive Mr. Punch and his jolly dog, Toby, bound toward the open door, eager to spare you from an unhappy New Year!|
First Footing is a tradition familiarly associated with Scotland, although it's practiced also in Northern England and Wales, and it is a custom sustained by a fundamental belief in the potentially tenuous nature of beginnings. As you welcome your guest, you "let in" the New Year. Why not increase your chances for a thrilling future by hobnobbing with good luck? The rules are quite specific: your visitor must be dark haired and, almost invariably, male. In some areas, it is important for him to be married, in others, a bachelor. Those with blond hair, however charming, talented and well-placed, might only stir dark memories of 8th century Viking invasions so be on the qui vive.
Typically, a first-footer came laden with symbolic gifts for members of the household. Bread and coal were standard, whiskey and something "green", i.e., alive, were also common. In turn, he was rewarded with food, drink and money, making the job of professional guest quite profitable. In order for the hosts to enjoy the full benefit of his visit, he was ushered into the house through the front and bade farewell through a rear door.
Your gentle, albeit blond author is very grateful for the attention you have shown Bijibou during the past year. As a modest acknowledgement of your kindness, and in the spirit of the first-footer, as a talisman for a New Year of lightness and wit, please enjoy these few Art Notes from the January, 1897 issue of Punch from which the above illustration was borrowed. Bliadhna mhath ur! - Happy New Year, to you all.
WE are glad to say the indisposition of Miss ANGELINA SNOOKS is less serious than it was at first reported to be. This talented young lady, whose representations of windmills are so justly popular, attempted, in a moment of aberration, to eat a cake of gamboge*. Fortunately her nurse was able to interrupt the meal, and it is hoped that in a few days' time she will be completely restored to health.
IT is said, on good authority, that Master WILLIAM JENKINS is likely to be appointed to the Slade Professorship, at present vacant. Some of the critics, while admitting his claims on other grounds, are inclined to demur to his election on the score of his advanced age. It is true that Master JENKINS has passed his fourteenth birthday, and that therefore his best work must necessarily lie behind him. Still, his brilliant course of lectures on The Art of Caricature," and his portraits of schoolmasters (executed in chalk, on wooden palings) seem to point him out as one eminently qualified for the post, and it is said that Messrs. WATTS and BURNS-JONES are extremely anxious to take lessons from him.
BRITISH sculpture is decidedly looking up. We have rarely seen finer specimens of the art than the mud-pies recently designed by Master PHIDIAS BROWN. Should the season permit, it is understood that this clever sculptor will produce a colossal figure in snow during his Christmas holidays.
THE Philistinism of parents is almost beyond belief. It is said that while Master HENRY RAPHAEL was engaged the other day in decorating his father's drawing-room wall-paper with cartoons painted in vermilion, that ignorant gentleman not only inter- rupted the artist's work, but even put him to severe physical pain as a reward for his industry. It is to be hoped that the Council of the Academy will prosecute this barbarous parent, and that he will thus reap the punishment which he so richly deserves.
*A cake of vibrant yellow paint produced from a gum resin derived from any of several South Asian trees. The resin is sometimes used as a purgative. While Bijibou acknowledges the timeliness of this information, she cannot endorse this as a remedy for any imminent overindulgence.