Today, (January 2, 2023) is Handsel Monday, the first Monday of the New Year and, in parts of Scotland and Ireland, it was the day in which you’d “handsel” a child some money in a bid to bring them some luck and hope that they’d always have money during the year.
A little bit of hope and good luck will do us no harm these days!
Among the rural population of Scotland, “Auld Hansel Monday”, was traditionally celebrated on the first Monday after January 12. This custom reflects a reluctance to switch from the old Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar.
There isn’t much information on the history or origin of Handsel Monday. athe word “handsel” originates from old Saxon word which literally means “to deliver into the hand”, and It refers to small tips and gifts of money given as a token of good luck, particularly at the beginning of something.
Some sources of 1800s mark Handsel Monday as an occasion when it was customary to make children and servants a present and, on this day, tips of small gifts were expected by servants, as well as by the postman, the deliverers of newspapers, scavengers, and all persons who waited upon the house.
In this respect it is somewhat similar to our modern Boxing Day, which eventually supplanted it.
Interestingly, if the handsel was a physical object rather than money, tradition said that the object could not be sharp, or it would “cut” the relationship between the giver and the recipient!
With the holiday a great celebration among rural and farming folk, it was usual for workers to receive a treat from their masters.
On Handsel Monday, half a crown or a shilling would often be collected from the big house, with a piece of cake and glass of toddy, a traditional hot drink consisting of liquor (such as rum or brandy), water, sugar, and spices, also shared while the bosses tended to the graft of the day.
The nation of Scotland has been celebrating Handsel Monday for more than 500 years as the great winter holiday of the year.
The necessary labours of the farm have to be done on that day by the members of household and, in one view of the matter, it was a wholesome reversal of relations between rustics and their employers.
It was usual for workers to get up extra early on Handsel Monday so they had as much time as possible to enjoy the holiday.
In their impatience to have the day start, young people usually waken the villages by kicking old tin pans at unearthly hours of the morning through the quiet streets.
The traditional breakfast would be fat brose, made from beef fat poured on oatmeal, with bonfires then lit after the first meal of the day, and house to house visits would then be made with gifts exchanged with raffles sometimes held. Typical prizes included currant loaves, watches, wheelbarrows and even pigs.
There was no teetotalism then, It was a great day and because of that it was long looked forward to.
The day is known in Scottish Gaelic as Diluain Traoighte (drained Monday), and the custom was also known as “handseling a purse”. A new purse would not be given to anyone without placing money in it for good luck, and money received during Handsel Monday is supposed to ensure monetary luck all for the rest of the year.
But over time the tradition of Handsel Monday has faded and not many people celebrate it now.
So, this Handsel Monday, why not give a gift to someone you’re thankful for and make your own luck?
Images from web – Google Research