Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for January 1, 2019 is:
handsel • \HAN-sul\ • noun
1 : a gift made as a token of good wishes or luck especially at the beginning of a new year
2 : something received first (as in a day of trading) and taken to be a token of good luck
3 a : a first installment
Celebrating the New Year in the Scottish tradition, Jessica gave out a handsel of one silver dollar coin to each of her nieces and nephews.
“The lads, dressed like their fathers, seemed uncomfortable in their new clothes (many that day had received the handsel of their first pair of boots); and beside them, speaking not a word, wearing the white gown of their first communion lengthened for the occasion, were some … girls of fourteen or sixteen….” — Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, 1856
Did you know?
According to an old custom in the British Isles, the first Monday of the New Year is Handsel Monday, a day to give a small gift or good luck charm to children or to those who have served you well. As long ago as the 13th century, English speakers were using the ancestor of handsel in the context of omens and luck, eventually leading to the meaning of a good luck charm given to one at the start of some new situation or condition. By the 18th century, traders were using handsel for the first cash they earned in the morning—to them, an omen of good things to follow. Nowadays, it can also be used for something that gives a taste of things to come.
January 01, 2019 at 01:00PM