02 January 2012

Handsel Monday; 9th Day of Christmas

Weather: The weather today foretells the weather of September and February.

If the sun shines on the 9th day of Christmas, then God shall send a great baptism that year.
[I don’t pretend to understand what that means.]

In Scottish tradition, the first Monday in the New Year is called Handsel Monday, and was devoted to the giving and receiving of presents (handsels) in the form of a little money or clothing.  Handsel, in my 1761 dictionary, is defined as “the Money taken upon the first Part sold of any Commodity, or first in the Morning”; a subsequent definition is “The first Money received at market…”, which the tradesperson would then spit upon for good fortune (and more of the same ilk in their coffers).  In the same way, these gifts were the first to be had at the beginning of the year and therefore imbued with good luck.  On that basis, anything which comes into your possession today (a child, a calf, a lamb, a garment, money, etc.) augurs good luck for the rest of the year.

Like Boxing Day in England and New Year’s Day in other countries, mistresses gave gifts to their servants, parents to their children, and everyone to the postman, dustbin-man, newspaper-delivery person, and others who make life a little easier on a daily or weekly basis.  Farmers treated their farmhands to a liberal breakfast, after which the servants would spend the day visiting their family and friends.

This was also a day to make changes in one’s work or abode.  Those wishing to move on to greener pastures (new master or new lodgings) did so today, while new servants and new renters were engaged in their places.

Auld Handsel Monday (i.e. Old Style) is held on the first Monday after the 12th of January [for those who just cannot accept the Gregorian Calendar, I guess].