British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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JAN. I.]                           HANDSEL MONDAY.                                       19
weeks. Upon such occasions, the gravest is expected to be merry, and to join in a cheerful song.—Stat. Ace. of Scot-' land, Sinclair, 1793, vol. v. p. 48.
Orkney Isles.
At Lady, companies of men go to the houses of the rich, and awake the family by singing the New Year's song, in full chorus. When the song is concluded, the family enter­tain the musicians with ale and bread, and give them a smoked goose or a piece of beef.—Stat. Ace. of Scotland, 1845, vol. xv. p. 142.
At the parishes of Cross, Burness, &c., New Year's gifts, under the title of " Christmas presents," are given to maid­servants by their masters.—Stat Account of Scotland, Sin­clair, 1793, vol. vii. p. 488.
The first Monday of the year is a great holiday among the peasantry of Scotland and children generally, as being the day peculiarly devoted in that country to the giving and receiving of presents. It is on this account called Handsel Monday, handsel being in Scotland the equivalent of a Christmas-box, but more especially implying a gift at the commencement of a season or the induing of some new garment. The young people visit their seniors in expecta­tion of tips (the word, but not the action, unknown in the north). Postmen, scavengers, and deliverers of newspapers look for their little annual guerdons. Among the rural population, Auld Handsel Monday, i.e. Handsel Monday old -style, or the first Monday after the twelfth of the month, is the day usually held. The farmers used to treat the whole of their servants on that morning to a liberal break­fast of roast and boiled, with ale, whisky, and cake, to their
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