The Times, Tuesday, Jan 02, 1827; pg. 3; Issue 13165; col A


NEW YEAR'S GIFTS. - The origin of the custom is attributed to the reign of
Romulus and Tatius, King of the Sabines, who governed jointly in Rome in the 7th
year of the town. Here it is said that Tatius, having been presented, on the 1st
day of January, with some boughs out of the Forest of the goddess Strania, in
token of good luck, began this custom, and called the present Strand. The Romans
made this a holyday, and consecrated it to the honour of Janus; offering
sacrifices to him, and the people went in throngs to Mount Tarpeia, (where Janus
had an altar,) clothed with new clothes, and chose to begin their respective
employments on that day. They wished one another good luck, and were very
careful not to speak any thing ill-natured or quarrelsome. The common presents
among the meaner sorts were dates, figs, and honey, which were usually covered
with leaf gold. And those who were under the protection of great men used to add
a piece of money. In the reign of Augustus, the populace, gentry, and senators
used to send him new year's gifts, and if he was not in the town, they carried
them to the capitol. From the Romans this custom went to the Greeks, and from
the Heathens to the Christians, who very early came into the practice of making
presents to the magistrates. Some of the fathers wrote very strenuously against
the practice, on account of the immoralities committed under that cover and
protection; but since the Governments of the several nations in Europe have
become Christians, the custom is still retained as a token of friendship, love,
and respect. In some parts of the north of England, previous to new year's day,
a gift is usually solicited by customers from their shopmen, termed Hagmana,
which word the Rev. Mr. LAMBE derives from the Greek, Hagiamene - the Holy Moon.
Our Saxon ancestors observed the commencement of the year with extraordinary
rejoicings, and the custom is still preserved among the labouring people. In
some parts of the country it is customary, particularly among Scotch people, to
rise early on the first morning of the year, when friends visit each other,
carrying with them liquors or spiced ale; and the door remains carefully locked
till the lucky friend arrives, whose foot is first permitted to pass the
threshold. Many other superstitious observances are kept, one of which is not to
suffer a light to be carried out of the house. The first Monday of the year is
called Handsel Monday, when petty dealers and tradesmen are sure to engage some
hearty friend to give them handsel.

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Handsel: a gift or token for good luck or as an expression of good wishes, as at
the beginning of the new year or when entering upon a new situation or
enterprise.
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