The Handsel

Handsel Day

Jan 3

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Our monarch's hindmost year but ane
Was five-and-twenty days begun
'Twas then a blast o' Janwar' win'
Blew hansel in on Robin."

~ Robert Burns, "Rantin', Rovin' Robin", 1785

'Hansel' is a Scots word meaning a welcome gift or present. In Scotland, the first Monday of the New Year is traditionally known as Hansel Monday and a day of gift giving. In rural areas, Auld Handsel Monday is celebrated on the first Monday after January 12, a custom reflecting a reluctance to switch from the old (Julian) style calendar to the new (Gregorian) calendar. The word “hansel” originates from a mix of an Old English word “handselen” which means “to deliver into the hand” and an Old Norse word “handsal” meaning “to seal a promise with a handshake,” and evolved into the Middle English “hansel” which refers to small tips and gifts of money given as a token of good luck, particularly at the beginning of something. The modern house-warming gift is a hansel! 🎁

The Handsel

Handsel Monday is the first Monday of the year, traditionally celebrated in Scotland and northern England.

The day is known in Scottish Gaelic as Diluain Traoighte (drained Monday).

Among the rural population of Scotland, Auld Hansel Monday, was traditionally celebrated on the first Monday after January 12th. 

 

The word "handsel" originates from old Saxon word meaning “to deliver into the hand.” It refers to small tips and gifts of money given as a token of good luck, particularly at the beginning of something, such as a modern house-warming gift.  It was customary in the 1800s to give tips or small presents to children, servants, postmen, newspaper deliverers, etc ... .

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. 

 

Handsel day traditionally started with a breakfast of "roast and boiled, with ale, whiskey, and cake" for the farm hands and servants and was a day for visiting neighbors, a moving day, or hiring new workers.

 

Happy Handsel Monday! And if you are hungry, here's a traditional Scottish Breakfast to inspire your own.   And for a pictorial look at breakfast from other countries, click it!

The Handsel
The Handsel

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