Handsel Monday

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Handsel Monday
Also called Auld Hansel Monday
Date First Monday in January
2018 date January 1  (2018-01-01)
2019 date January 7  (2019-01-07)
2020 date January 6  (2020-01-06)
2021 date January 4  (2021-01-04)
Frequency annual

Handsel Monday is the first Monday of the year, particularly as used to be celebrated in Scotland and northern England.[1] Among the rural population of Scotland, Auld Hansel Monday, is traditionally celebrated on the first Monday after January 12. This custom reflects a reluctance to switch from the Old (Julian) style calendar to the New (Gregorian) calendar.[2]


The word "handsel" originates from old Saxon word which means “to deliver into the hand”. It refers to small tips and gifts of money given as a token[3] of good luck, particularly at the beginning of something; the modern house-warming gift would be a good example. An 1825 glossary marks Handsel Monday as an occasion "when it is customary to make children and servants a present".[4] On this day, tips of small gifts were expected by servants,[5] as well as by the postman, the deliverers of newspapers, scavengers, and all persons who wait upon the house.

In this respect it is somewhat similar to Boxing Day, which eventually supplanted it.[2] 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. The day is known in Scottish Gaelic as Diluain Traoighte (drained Monday).

The custom was also known as “Handseling a purse”. A new purse would not be given to anyone, without placing money[6] in it for good luck. Money received during Handsel Monday is supposed to insure monetary luck all for the rest of the year.

It is worth mentioning that one William Hunter, a collier (residing in the parish of Tillicoultry, in Clackmannanshire), was cured in the year 1738 of an inveterate rheumatism or gout, by drinking freely of new ale, full of harm or yeast. The poor man had been confined to his bed. for a year and a half, having almost entirely lost the use of his limbs. On the evening of Handsel Monday, as it is called, some of his neighbours came to make merry with him. Though he could not rise, yet he always took his share of the ale, as it passed round the company, and in the end he became much intoxicated. The consequence was that he had the use of his limbs next morning, and was able to walk about. He lived more than twenty years after this, and never had the smallest return of his old complaint. —Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, 1792, xv., note on p. 201.


  1. Michael Quinion, "World Wide Words: Handsel" Retrieved 7 May 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, s.v. "Handsel Monday," Detroit: Omnigraphics, Inc., 2010, Retrieved 7 January 2013,
  3. Handsel at Scots Language Centre Retrieved 4 July 2013
  4. John Trotter Brockett, A glossary of north country words, in use, 1st edition, 1 vol., Newcastle upon Tyne: 1825.
  5. Definition at Merriam-Webster Retrieved 4 July 2013
  6. The History of Ireland Retrieved 4 July 2013

External links