26 December 2010-Boxing Day
.For my overseas readers who do not know or recognise, what is Boxing Day, I give the following explanation.It is, the day after Christmas Day and is a bank and public holiday observed, not only in this country but also Australia, Austria, Canada, and many other countries including most of the Commonwealth countries with a Christian background. Traditionally Boxing Day was the day on which any Christmas Box was opened and the contents shared with the poor. Today, at least in the UK, it is a time when we reward trades people like the postman, the dustman, the milkman, the paperboy etc., in other words people who attend to us almost every day of the year. It is our usual practice to reward these marvellous people. who battle through all weather, wet or fine, to come to our home to provide us with a service. The current practices is to give them a gift or, more generally, small amount of money. When I was young, representatives from these various trades would present themselves at your house on Boxing Day. However, the practice now is to give them their envelope any time in the weeks running up to Christmas. Also, in my youth, Boxing Day would have been the day when an employer might well have given a Christmas bonus to his employees
Originally, during the Age of Exploration, when great sailing ships were setting off to discover Â new lands, a Christmas Box was used as a good luck device. It was a small container placed on each ship while it was still in port. It was put there by a priest, and those crewmen who wanted to ensure a safe return would drop money into the box. It was then sealed up and kept on board for the entire voyage. If the ship came home safely, the box was handed over to the priest in exchange for the saying of a Mass of thanks for the success of the voyage. The priest would keep the box sealed until Christmas when he would open it to share the contents with the poor.
Another traditional practice was to place an â€˜Alms Boxâ€™ in every church at Christmas, in which worshippers placed a gift for the poor of the parish. These boxes were always opened after Christmas, which is why that day became known as Boxing Day. This is still practised in some churches today.
On a final note, for those who are familiar with the English Christmas carols, Boxing Day is also St Stephen’s Day. The day on which, according to the Carol, Â â€˜good King Wenceslasâ€™ went forth to find the poor man sheltering from the blizzard and invited him in to eat and drink with him.
Our big excitement of Boxing Day is to don on some warm clothes and wellingtons and go off to see the meet of the local hunt. Again, for the overseas readers, this is a meeting of Huntsmen and women on horseback, smartly attired, with a pack of foxhounds which they will use to flush out foxes from copses of trees and then give chase on horseback. The Master and the Whiperâ€™s-in are usually attired in pink jackets. On a crisp winters morning, the â€˜meetâ€™ is an invigorating place to see one’s local friends and take some fresh air after the excesses of the previous day. Sadly, I can no longer go myself. The wheelchair would simply be impossible to push across the muddy field but the young went. In fact, Smiler and Alice and once sponsored one of the hounds. which meant they paid a small annual amount towards its upkeep.
This year, as Boxing Day falls on a Sunday, there is no meet. In any event, would have been most unlikely they would have hunted today with the frozen ground. The actual meet will take place tomorrow.
Boxing Day is also very much a family day. Those who have come to spend Christmas usually staying on to continue to enjoy the good food and drink and perhaps, again in the evening, play more games. During the day, all and sundry spent a little time Â enjoying the generous presents given to them the previous day.
Smiler and Kimberly left mid-afternoon so we will have a quiet period, probably watching some of our favourite television programmes this evening, before the â€˜invasionâ€™ of the other half of the family tomorrow and the arrival of the’ good’ Doctor Michael from Melbourne.
Speaking of Melbourne gives me the feeble excuse to briefly touch on the incredible beginning of the fourth Test match in the Ashes series. Incredibly Australia were all bowled out for 98 having been 40 for 1. Not since 1936 haveÂ Australia made a lowest score in an Ashes series. Add to that the two openers, Straus andÂ Cook, surviving for, what was left of the day, scoring 156 runs and thusÂ putting England 58 runs ahead with all their wickets in hand. With four days to go provided England can score, say, around 400 runs, they should be in an invincible position to win the series.