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January 3rd 1803

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Auld Handsel Monday

At one time the biggest holiday at the turn of the year was not New Year’s Day but Handsel Monday, the first Monday in the year. When the calendar changed, Handsel Monday continued to be celebrated according to the old reckoning and became known as Auld Handsel Monday. It was kept as a holiday throughout Perth and Perthshire though the festival was unknown in many parts of the country. In Perth the celebrations started soon after midnight with the young people thronging the streets.

“By one in the morning the streets were in an uproar with young people, who appeared to consider themselves privileged to do whatever mischief they pleased. It was a constant practice to pull down signboards or anything that came in the way, and make a large bonfire of them at the Cross - all being for the benefit of the trade and the support of the good old customs. Numbers of boys, belonging to the Clover Incorporation, were to be heard in every quarter selling small purses at a half penny each; these were made of the parings of leather, and enabled the lads to gather something to hold Handsel Monday with. They were generally all sold off early in the morning, The tradesmen were all idle this day, and considered themselves entitled to handsel from their employers, and even from individuals in any way connected with the business. Thus, the Weavers, having received their handsel from the manufacturer, a deputation from the shop was sent to the Wright who made their utensils, another to the Reedmaker, and to the Chandler who supplied them with candles; and a third to the company who boiled the yarn. The whole proceeds of these begging commissions were put together and spent in the evening in a tavern.” 

The practice of celebrating Handsel Monday continued until the early years of this century.

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