Community first footing

Published on December 31st, 2012 | by Timothy Thomas McNeely


First Things First: Wish Them All Well

We will be out on New Year’s Eve, of course, but only till maybe 9 o’clock. I have small children. You however may find yourself at a party, a friend’s small get-together, or possibly at the excellent slew of First Night offerings. If you find yourself out and about ‘round midnight, may I suggest you start the new year with the most neighborly tradition the holiday supports, Hogmanay.

TheFirstFootHogmanayPronounced “hog-mun-ee,” with an emphasis on “hog,” this is the mostly Scottish tradition of going out after the clock has struck twelve and greeting your neighbors and friends, often visiting them at their houses if they’re not already out seeking you. Everyone greets one another with “Happy Hogmanay!”

Though in Edinburgh or Glasgow, Hogmanay is mostly just an enormous street party with fireworks and fire displays, the tradition of visiting others’ homes encourages neighborhood-building efforts like those of National Night Out.

Ostensibly, the goal is to be the very first foot inside a friend’s door in the new year, and thereby bring them good luck. Bring a gift as well, and in Scotland, you will certainly be gifted with food and a drink to warm you on your way. Such fellowship is obviously the best part.

My wife and I were in Scotland at Hogmanay seven years ago. We were at a friend’s house in the small university town of St Andrews. She recalls the evening this way:

The thing that I remember most distinctly was that as soon the clock struck twelve, and toasts to those in the home were made, everyone left the house, knocking on doors and greeting friends and strangers in the streets. It was as if there was a block party and everyone knew that it started on the hour. I don’t think that we had any direction where we were going, except for home, but I am certain that people who knew of parties around town where other friends might be, quickly made their way to them and continued the party throughout the city.

This is a tradition we should acquire.

While some of us may be home before midnight, and some may be out on the town, in Tacoma we’re never that far apart.

On New Year’s Day, when the clock has still barely registered the hour, go, Tacomans, out into the streets. Go to the friends that you know will be home, and go to the neighbors you can see are still up. Wish them all well.

In the depth of the night, in the neighborhoods of Tacoma, I hope to hear you adventuring, finding old and new friends, and greeting the new year in person.

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About the Author

Most days, Timothy Thomas McNeely leads federal and state education program reviews for the State of Washington. Born in Tacoma, he studied poetry and philosophy in Canada and the United Kingdom. He is editor of the Community and Literature sections for Post Defiance, and writes poetry and prose whenever he can. He and his family live in Tacoma. Find him on Twitter as @ttmcneely.

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