Anne here with reindog… sending all you wintering souls some sunshine from downunder.
The presents are all opened, the heavy Christmas dinner slept off and in the UK , Canada, New Zealand and Australia, it's a public holiday called Boxing Day. It's not anything to do with the pugilistic arts; it's an old tradition of gift-giving from the rich to the poor or dependent. There are many variants of the tradition. In most British churches, an alms box was kept, to which people contributed. It was opened the day after Christmas and the money divided between the poor. The 26th is also St Stephen's Day, when Good King Wenceslas gave the poor man meat, wine and wood. In England, the rich gave the servants who had worked on Christmas Day a holiday the next day and leftover food from the feast in a box. It's the origin of the Christmas bonus and the custom of leaving out out small gifts for those who deliver to our homes — the paperboy, the postman, the milkman.
Boxing Day in England is also traditionally the day for the Boxing Day hunt. Here in Australia, we continue the tradition, only without horses, hounds or foxes. It's the noble sport of Bargain Hunting! Most of the big stores have massive sales on Boxing Day – the shops will open at 7 am or sometimes earlier and there will be a huge feeding frenzy as shoppers go wild over bargains.
For those not interested in shopping, there is cricket. Most north Americans don't understand cricket and don't see the appeal. It's a seemingly slow sport and a match will take all day, with Test Matches (international ones) playing out over three long, generally hot days, but the game ignites powerful passions in such diverse countries as India, Pakistan, the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and, of course, the UK. It's one legacy of colonization that wasn't discarded, and these days it's stronger than ever. There's a wonderful reggae song with a chorus that goes, "I don't like cricket, oh, no… I love it!
Cricket is a passion with many Australian, and the tradition of going to the Boxing Day match in Melbourne, at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) is long and beloved here. In many families the men go to the cricket while the women hit the shops.
And for those who don't do either, there's beach or backyard cricket. All it takes is a bat, a ball — a tennis ball will do — and a rubbish bin or three sticks that will act as the wicket. The bowler aims to get the batter out by bowling the ball and hitting the wicket or forcing the batter to hit a catch, the batting side makes as many runs as possible. 100 runs (known as a century or a ton) is a score any batsman is proud of. There's a song celebrating backyard cricket called "I made a hundred in the back yard at Mum's." Beach cricket was a big feature of my childhood, and this picture by Australian writer illustrator Elizabeth Honey sums it all up perfectly for me.
Another big Boxing Day event downunder is the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, a major international ocean-going race that covers 630 nautical miles (1,170 km) often in very dangerous conditions. Watching the international fleet of competitors sailing out of Sydney harbour accompanied by hundreds of smaller crafts is a stunning sight.
Whatever you're doing today, whether it's shopping, playing sport or watching it on TV — or simply curling up with a good book, have a wonderful Boxing Day.
What do you usually do on 26 December?