1. a Christmas or New Year's ceremony;
From the English Dialect Dictionary:
"A company of young lads or men generally went in old times on what they termed the Qualtagh, at Christmas or New Year's Day, to the houses of their more wealthy neighbours; some one of the company repeating in an audible voice the following rhyme: 'Ollick ghennal erriu,' &c. . .When this was repeated they were then invited in to partake of the best that the house could afford. The purport of the foregoing rhyme appears to be; ' A merry Christmas to you, and a happy New Year. Long life and health to all the family. Your lifetime and cheerfulness live together. Peace and love between women and men. Goods and flummery, stock and store. Plenty of potatoes and herrings enough. Bread and cheese, butter and the spring-tide. Stealthy death in neither stack-yard or barn. Safe sleep when you lie down. And may the flea not make a meal of you."; also, one who takes part in the ceremony ...1869 Eng. dial. obs.
2. the first person one meets after leaving home on some special occasion, as New Year's Day; the first person entering a house on New Year's Day; the first-foot ...1891
Manx, also written quaaltagh, from quaail (= Irish and Gaelic comhdháil) meeting
A great deal of superstitious belief surrounds the qualtagh of New Year’s Day. A darker complexion was considered luckier. A male qualtagh was considered luckier than a female, and a red-headed person was exceptionally unlucky.
A qualtagh bearing gifts was considered beneficial as it was considered representative of what the New Year would bring. When meeting a qualtagh it was polite to provide them with the best offerings of the house - the finest food and drink available.
From: The Manxman
A Novel by Hall Caine, 1894
Part II. Boy and Girl. P. 71