“Quaaltagh” sounds like a word from the Klingon language. It’s origin is much closer to home, however.
In Scotland, the New Year’s Day custom of quaaltagh is also known as the “first-foot.” It refers to the belief that your prospects for the upcoming year are largely influenced by the first person to set foot across your threshhold in the new year.
Ideally, the quaaltagh will be a tall, dark-haired male bearing gifts of coins, coal, bread, salt, and a “wee dram” of whiskey. The preference for dark-haired visitors is believed to date back to the days when a blond-haired visitor was likely to be a Viking. Rarely did Viking visitors bring good fortune or gifts.
Although Viking invasions have declined significantly in recent years, the custom of anticipating the arrival of a dark-haired guest lives on. There are some folks who earn some extra income this time of year by hiring themselves out to be the quaaltagh for a price.
In light of the Scottish New Year’s Eve custom of Hogmanay, in which a flaming ball gets hurled around, it would seem that the ideal job for a dark-haired male would be as a firefighter.
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