Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Handsel

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

THE HANDSEL (J8x32) 3C (4C set) Mervyn C Short 12 SCDs

1- 8 1L+2L turn LH while 1M+2M turn RH, 1s followed by 2s dance down between 3s and cast to original places
9-16 1s+2s set and 1s cross down RH to 2nd place to face out while 2c cast up to top. 1s cast right to end between 3s/2s facing opposite sides
17-24 1s dance RSh reels of 3 across
25-32 1s set and petronella turn to 2nd place opposite sides, 1s dance ½ Figs of 8 eight round 3s

(MINICRIB. Dance crib compiled by Charles Upton, Deeside Caledonian Society, and his successors)


Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams


Dance Information

A handsel is a gift or token for good luck, given as an expression of good wishes, typically at the beginning of the new year.

In Scotland, the first Monday after New Year's Day was traditionally known as Hansel Monday, or Handsel Monday, and gifts (Scots: Hansels) were given at this time.

Among the rural population of Scotland, Auld Hansel Monday, was traditionally celebrated on the first Monday after January 12. This custom reflected a reluctance to switch from the old (Julian) style calendar to the new (Gregorian) calendar.

The word "handsel" originates from an old Saxon word which means "to deliver into the hand". It refers to small tips and gifts of money given as tokens 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". On this day, tips of small gifts were expected by servants, 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.

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 in it for good luck. Money received during Handsel Monday is supposed to insure monetary luck for the rest of the year.

Handsel Image
Frae Scots Tae Socts, For Auld Lane Syne, South Africa 1900


Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.
Text from this original Hansel Monday article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright (cropped) Iphigenia Wang [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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