We are writing about Christmas memories this week and since Christmas was yesterday, I sincerely hope that you will have fond memories to take with you from this year’s holiday. I thought that I would use the day after Christmas as my topic today.
Several years ago a friend in India made a rare phone call to me. One December 26th. he greeted me with “Happy Boxing Day!” Taken by surprise, I said, “Well, thank you, Denzil , but we don’t really do that here.” Some British traditions have apparently stayed.
For those who do not know, Boxing Day is a holiday in Britain and Ireland and many countries that are/were part of the British Empire. I ‘m not sure if anyone knows which custom gave the day its name, but several may have.
Servants in households,(and there were many), were often needed through Christmas at their employers’ homes, so their boxes of gifts, (and sometimes the day off), were given to them the day after. Boxes of leftover foods, (and there were many), were sent home with them, or they were boxed and given to the poor.
December 26th is also St. Stephen’s Day. The “Christmas” song, “Good King Wenceslas” is actually an “after-Christmas carol”.(“Good King Wenceslas looked out, o’er the feast of Stephen…”).It is also a day of alms-giving, more so in the past, when strong metal boxes were put in front of churches to make it easy for coins to be dropped into them as people passed by.
Today, I am told, it is often celebrated with friends and the closest family members. People are more relaxed and family obligations are out of the way.
Charlie Louie, who writes wonderful and very amusing stories of her life and family, (along with wonderful recipes),in her food blog, “Hotly Spiced”, often relates her Boxing Day feasts in Sidney, Australia, where she and others gather with family and friends. They take their left-overs, make some special foods and have a lovely Summer day relaxing overlooking the beach where the kids play.
Of course, most of us in America can’t do that. It’s usually pretty cold here, or at least, cooler than beach-weather.
My childhood days-after-Christmas were those of sleeping-in, knowing there was no school for at least a couple of weeks. The house still smelled wondrously with cookies, pastries and other foods on many shelves, counters and tables…with more in the refrigerator. And the new baby doll, which was a traditional gift for we girls, would now take her place as the head in our doll hierarchy.
The house would be in a bit of disarray, as opened boxes, usually the ones with gifts of clothing, would be half stuffed once again under the tree, while parts of toys were scattered about. Most of the ‘good’ candy would be finished from each of our stockings that day, but it would not yet be time to take out the nuts and fruit that my mother insisted on adding every year. One apple, one orange, one tangerine, plus a few filberts, almonds, walnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts, (in their shells), were part of the tradition that never varied.
The day after Christmas was the time to start eating my mother’s almond cake that was too dense to eat with the feast the day before, and we could fill up on many of the other goodies, since dietary rules were pretty much a lost cause that day. No matter how difficult life was at the time, and it could be, money was found and my mother worked tirelessly to bake her heart out along with making and stuffing the biggest turkey she could find.(One year it was a 36 pounder; the oven door never completely closed.)
If relatives had come in, we’d find our way with or around them. One close aunt and uncle always came for Christmas day, but a few times out-of-town relatives came. We had a small house but we managed somehow. But mostly I remember my brother’s and sister’s friends coming in and out, sampling my mother’s cookies and pastries. She often sent boxes of goodies home with them.
I guess we celebrated Boxing Day after all!
Do you have any St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day/Day-After-Christmas memories?