Boxing Day! I love it. In British households, anywhere in the world, and in some Commonwealth countries, it is a day of idleness interspersed with bouts of relaxed energy. Can I say that – or am I dabbling in the realms of the oxymoron? But you know the kind of day – a lazy breakfast chatting over coffee as members of the family gathered for the Christmas festivities amble into the kitchen, the warmest place in any house, in varying stages of undress. Vague plans are made. We must go for a long walk, walk off the Christmas pud kind of suggestions are bandied about in the full knowledge that only a one or two, if that, will actually drag themselves off. Present piles are gone through slowly with pleasure, new books are dipped into, Kindles oohed over. Meals are invariably leftovers made new, or not. Bubble and squeak goes with everything. The closest thing to energy expended if not actually attending a match or game is to turn on the telly and settle down for an afternoon of rugby. After the charades of the previous day it is sofa of quiet reflection and gentle laughter and not frenzied guessing, though that might be interrupted by the occasional shout of dismay at a dropped catch, or glee at a try scored.
But not here in Houston nor, I hazard a guess, anywhere in the US if households are not snowed in or flooded out.
Boxing Day in America is the day the fairy lights are turned off. Baubles and tinsel are boxed and despatched to attics or basements as the Christmas tree is stripped, and the sidewalks littered with pine trees shedding needles like a wet dog shaking. The sparkle is gone. The glitz turned off for another year.
Boxing Day traditionally was the day the lords and ladies of the manor treated their servants to a day off and presented them and their families with boxed gifts or food. It was a day of largesse and leisure.
Boxing Day in the US is neither of those. But rather another day of fighting the hordes in the aftermath of the pre-Christmas shopping sprees. Today is the day when the blouse Great Aunt Gertrude took such care to chose is returned to the store and exchanged for another more to her neice’s liking. Today is the day when size matters and the must-have Nike trainers that don’t fit are taken back in the hopes someone else was given a size too small, or a size too big, and is on the same mission. Today is the day when children already shopped out are dragged back to the Mall to stand in yet more queues as mothers return item after item. Today is the day gift cards are redeemed as the stores offer more and more savings. Today is another day of rampant consumerism.
What happened to hanging Great Aunt Gertrude’s blouse at the back of the cupboard, hidden but not quite forgotten, just in case you have lunch, or maybe tea with her one day. Maybe you’d like to please her by wearing the present she graciously gave you, even though you desperately hope no-one you know sees you and thinks your sense of style has disappeared in the ton of wrapping paper dispatched to the rubbish bin, along with the turkey bones.
Maybe today should be a lesson in learning grace, a day of writing thank you notes – maybe to Great Aunt Gertrude for the lovely blouse she sent, and not a day of hightailing it back to the Mall.
I love Boxing Day. My day is one of bouts of relaxed energy, and I have decided that isn’t an oxymoron or any other figure of speech. It perfectly describes what I am doing. A few moments of writing, a few moments of picking up, a few moments of reading, a few moments of putting rarely used dishes back in their hard-to-reach places. A day to enjoy my family and friends as we idle away another Boxing Day. Though this year, in America, we’ll be watching hockey, the kind played on ice, instead of rugby. Almost perfect!