18 December 2011

Posted by DMC on 19 December 2011 in Diary |

7 days until Christmas eve. Seve days of last-minute rushing around buying presents and delivering them locally. That is one thing that possibly ‘my lovely’ has always being very good at over the years, and that is giving presents, at Christmas, to everyone who have served and helped us during the preceding year. She maintains the tradition of the ‘Christmas box’ for what we call, for the want of a better description, the trades people, Not to be construed in any derogatory sense. Indeed these lovely people, many of whom are friends of 40 years or so standing, include the postman; the dustmen; the milkman; the sewing lady; the ironing lady; the window cleaner; the garage man etc and a few extra special ones like our own Derek ‘the plumber’, Bill and Ben ‘the handymen’, Jane ‘the sheep’; Paul ‘the computer’ and ,of course, Peter’ the gardener'(I feel a touch of the Beatrix Potter’s coming on me when I spell them out like this!)
and I’m sure there are a number of others who I have failed to mention.

I certainly do not wish to give the wrong idea about these excellent people. They are totally indispensable to us and ease us through life and without them we would be lost. It’s just that we continue the tradition of’ ‘Christmas boxes’ , or a small ‘thank you’ which our parents did before us. The presents themselves can be very modest, from the small box of chocolates, or larger ones for those people who are more regularly involved with us. Maybe a bottle of port or wine for some of the men etc

Boxing Day, as the name suggests, is the day when the tradespeople would call upon their customers wishing them a happy Christmas and receiving from them their ‘Christmas box’. or ‘thank you’ for their past year’s services.This practice, long since abandoned – I suspect since the beginning of the second World War – in favour of handing out the presents when you see the trades person involved. I wonder how many people today would be able to tell you what is the true meaning of Boxing Day, other than a public holiday, following Christmas Day?

I ought to perhaps mention, for the sake of my overseas readers, that there is nothing grand about the way we do things – the way I put it makes it sound as though we are the squire handing out gifts to our servants – nothing could be further from the truth. These good people are an essential part of our lives to whom we are eternally grateful. Worse than that I suspect that a large number of people no longer bother to do anything about the small army of persons who serve them throughout the year. There are not many wonderfully generous people about like ‘my lovely’..

.In this country Boxing Day is usually celebrated on the day following Christmas Day, i.e. 26th of December although strictly speaking Boxing Day is the first weekday after Christmas. It is a public holiday when traditionally the Christmas Box was opened to share the contents with the poor. These Christmas Boxes, were usually made of wood or clay and often placed in the church for people to place money in, it over the year.

During the Age of Exploration, when sailing ships set off to discover new lands, a Christmas Box was often used as a good luck device. It was placed on the ship whilst it was in port by a priest and those crewmen who wanted to ensure a safe journey would drop money into the box which would then be sealed up and kept on board for the entire voyage. Assuming the ship came home safely the box would then be handed over to the priest, to say a Mass of thanks for the success of the voyage, who keep it until Christmas when he would open it and share it with the poor.

Click here for a Cinderella story with a difference. This one is told by Ronnie Barker. (Apparently the BBC did not get a single complaint!) If you could manage to do this yourself after a few drinks I think you would be doing really well.

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