|An Irish Penny|
The tradition, or at least a version of it, was also practiced in Malahide, Co. Dublin, in my Dad's extended family. Christopher Mahon, from the Swords Road, was my third cousin once removed. In September 1938, when he was thirteen years old, Chris participated in a scheme initiated by the Irish Folklore Commission, aiming to capture and preserve the folklore of the Irish Free State, and wrote an essay entitled 'Certain Days'. 'The Schools' Collection', as it is now known, has thousands of such essays, written by school children across Ireland. Chris wrote:
‘The first Monday after Christmas is considered very lucky. It is called Hansel Monday. If people transact any business on that day and receive silver in return it is said they are never short afterwards’.
Apparently, it is an ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition and not a Celtic tradition, as might be imaged. The word ‘handsel’ may have roots in the old English ‘handselen’, meaning ‘delivery into the hand’ and the custom possibly crossed the Irish Sea with Scottish settlers. As the tradition was passed down in my maternal lineage, it might suggest a Scottish, or maybe Northern English, influence. Something to bear in mind as I search for their ancestors.
Please accept this gift of a virtual penny today, to ensure your prosperity for the rest of 2015!