Handsel Monday, the first Monday after New Year’s Day, is a unique celebration in Scotland where the master or mistress gives small gifts to their servants. In many households, fathers or mothers also give gifts to children on this day. Did you know that the word ‘Handsel’ means ‘to deliver into the hand’? But this day is not just about handing gifts to servants and children — each gift given holds a significant meaning. Gifting money on this day is said to bring monetary luck for the rest of the year. However, if the gift isn’t money, the object should not be sharp. Let’s learn more.
History of Handsel Monday
The nation of Scotland has been celebrating Handsel Monday for more than 500 years as the great winter holiday of the year. In Scotland, this tradition is mostly followed by the rural population of the country where they give gifts to servants or their children as a token of good luck. You can also give gifts to beggars or someone you owe a debt of gratitude to or someone you’re thankful for. The gift could be anything from money to a bottle of booze. Gifting someone a piece of silver like a silver coin or silver ornaments and items is said to bring guaranteed good luck for the rest of the year.
However, according to tradition, gifting sharp objects or something sharp will cut apart your relationship with the person and bring you bad luck. There isn’t much information on the history or origin of Handsel Monday. The word ‘Handsel’ comes from the old Saxon word which means ‘to deliver into the hand.’ During the olden days, servants would collect half a crown or a shilling along with a piece of cake and a glass of toddy from their masters and rejoice the day.
Auld Handsel Monday was traditionally celebrated on the first Monday after the old New Year — the Monday that comes after January 12. But as years passed, it shifted to the first Monday of the New Year. Technically, Handsel Monday, or Hansel Monday, is a custom that reflects the switch from the old Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar. 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!
Handsel Monday timeline
The custom of gifting servants after New Year’s Day starts in Scotland.
People switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar system, resulting in the change of the date of the holiday.
The Minister of Tillicoultry Parish tells the tale of William Hunter, a guy who got cured of rheumatism by drinking freely of new ale on Handsel Monday.
People across Scotland and England are again beginning to relish this old festival.
Handsel Monday FAQs
Does the date for Handsel Monday vary each year?
Yes, Handsel Monday is usually celebrated on the first Monday that comes after New Year’s Day.
Can we gift anything apart from money?
Of course, you can! The main objective here is to appreciate the things that others have done for you. So, you can gift anything as a token of love.
Can I celebrate Handsel Monday if I am not originally from Scotland?
Yes, you can. Although this tradition originated in Scotland, people from anywhere across the world can celebrate this day with their family and friends.
Handsel Monday Activities
Be the one to gift
Well, the greatest pleasure you can gain on Handsel Monday is by giving a gift to someone you’re thankful for. So, give as many people as you can and show your appreciation.
Do it the old way!
Want to enjoy the celebration in its original form? Start the day with a breakfast of roast and boiled with ale, whiskey, and cake, and enjoy it with your co-workers or employees.
Share your favorite Handsel Monday story
Handsel Monday is one of the exciting and heart-warming festivals out there. So, if you have some interesting stories to share on this day, share them on your social media!
5 Heart-Warming Facts About Handsel Monday That’ll Warm Your Heart
It’s a 500-year-old tradition.
Handsel Monday is said to have been around for 500 years and it's one of the big festivals for the working class.
It inspired Boxing Day
Handsel Monday is said to be the inspiration for Boxing Day in the U.S. that occurs on the day after Christmas.
You can gift almost anyone
On this day, you can even gift your postman, newspaper delivery boy, and even scavengers.
It’s a brawl Monday!
Due to the celebrations that involve booze on Handsel Monday, there have been many occurrences of roadside brawls breaking out on this day.
No empty purses on this day
The tradition goes that, if you’re planning to give someone a new purse, it should not be empty.
Why We Love Handsel Monday
It is a much-needed celebration
Handsel Monday is a much-needed celebration that brings a sense of happiness and a break from a routine for the working class. On this day, people just eat, drink, and enjoy themselves with friends and family.
It teaches us the art of giving
Handsel day teaches us the art of giving and the importance of giving back your love and appreciation to someone who gave it to you in the past.
Everybody loves gifts
Let’s be honest here, everybody loves gifts, whether big or small, a needle or a car, gifts are the package of happiness. Giving and receiving gifts makes everyone happier on this day.
Handsel Monday dates