|Thomas & Benjamin Godwin (1809-1834) Christmas Day 7 inch plate, ca. 1833|
|Hansall Monday 6.5 inch plate ca. 1833|
Handsel or Hansall Monday (there are lots of different spellings) is the first Monday after the 12th of January. It is a holiday that used to be celebrated in Scotland and Northern England. The handsel refers to small tips and gifts of money that were customary to give at the beginning of the first working week of a new year. In this respect, it is somewhat similar to Boxing Day (December 26) in England and Wales.
Handsel is an old Scottish festival. Before the nineteenth century, it was the main midwinter celebration as Christmas was considered by Calvinists to be heathen and Hogmanay hadn’t come into fashion. Handsel was a day for giving presents, and that is where the name comes from. Handsel (or hansel or even handsell) is a Middle English word for luck or a good omen that comes from Old Norse (from handsal which means giving of the hand to seal a promise, similar to a handshake today). It became the name for a gift given on any special occasion, such as taking on a new job, beginning some enterprise, or beginning the New Year. It makes sense that this plate was made for the Scottish market with the same pattern as Christmas Day, as Hansall was the more important holiday in Scotland in the early 19th century. It was more important than celebrating Christmas or the New Year.