We still do it here in the Northeast. It was always a dark-haired man carrying coal and silver.
The first-foot in the door after the bells at midnight brings the luck for the forthcoming year into the house with them. Further up in the borders they used to say 'may your lum ever reek' ( may your chimney always smoke) hence the coal.
this brings back memories of my grandma - if there was ever any trouble in a family in the year she would always ask "so who was your firstfoot" thus blaming the problem on the fact that you'd somehow chosen the wrong person to be you firstfoot never mind anything else.
The British are not alone in having unusual New Year traditions.
In countries like Brazil and Bolivia, it's what's underneath that counts. Residents in cities such as Sao Paulo and La Paz ring in the New Year by donning brightly colored underpants. Those who choose red are hoping for an amorous year ahead, those with yellow wish for money;
In Denmark, as if the effects of plentiful New Year's alcohol were not disorienting enough, many Danish revelers leap off chairs at the stroke of midnight, hoping to banish bad spirits in the year ahead;
In the Philipines New Year's celebrations in places like Manila tend to be circular; Filipinos focus on all things round, consuming "round" fruits such as grapes and wearing clothing with round shapes like polka dots. The spherical theme is meant to remind celebrants of the "round" shape of coins and prosperity;
In Spain at the stroke of 12, Spaniards begin to consume 12 grapes, attempting to eat the whole bunch by the time the clock stops chiming;
The new year in Belarus is all about getting hitched. Unmarried women compete at games of skill and chance to determine who will tie the knot in the coming months. One game involves setting piles of corn and a rooster before the potential brides-to-be - whichever pile the bird chooses apparently picks the lucky lady.