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A New Year's Day tradition: Sanding the Step

By Caroline Palmer

In Cornwall, the moment between 11.59pm on New Year’s Eve and midnight on New Year’s Day is known as ‘St Tibb’s Eve’, a hidden day of magical celebration.

Robert Hunt (1807-1887) first recorded the Cornish version of the tradition ‘First Footing’, which has become known as the ‘sanding the step’. The doorstep is marked with a line of sand and the first person to cross is said to represent the luck the household will receive that year.

In the rural districts of Cornwall, it is thought to be unlucky if a female is the first to enter the house on New Year's morning. To insure the contrary, it was customary to give boys some small reward for placing sand on the door-steps and in the passage.

In many places, not many years since, droves of boys would march through the towns and villages, collecting their fees for 'sanding your step for good luck'.

Bledhen Noweth Da dhegh why oll! - A Happy New Year to you all!


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