Boxing Day Books

Nicola here with the Wenches’ second blog of the festive season. Every year, for as long as I can remember, one of the special treats of Christmas has been the Book Present. It’s generally understood in this house that if all my Christmas presents are books, that would be an ideal situation. Whilst I heartily endorse the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod – the giving and receiving of new books, and reading them together on Christmas Eve – there is a problem with this happening before Christmas. Once I get my head in a book, it may not come out for several days, with the possibility that I might miss Christmas Day altogether. Which is where the Boxing Day read comes in. Once I’ve been out for a walk, I can dive into the pile that’s waiting for me. The Boxing Day jigsaw is also waiting in the wings. This year I have a great mix of books, as you can see: fiction, a guide to a magnificent 18th century house, and a book of word and phrase definitions, which is the sort of thing I find fascinating. Did you know that the “inexpressibles” referred to by Regency authors when describing gentlemen’s trousers could also be called ineffables, inexplicables and “round-me-houses,” which is less elegant but quite fun.

Did you receive Christmas book gifts? And how do you spend Boxing Day? Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, have a very good day!

Boxing Day

Anne here, as we move into our Wenchly daily Christmastide blogging. I've scored the Boxing Day blog several times in the past, so if you'd like to read my 2008 blog about the traditions and practice of Boxing Day, as well as some odd Australian traditions, click on this link. CherriesXmas

I'm avoiding the Boxing Day sales, and not watching the cricket — or any TV. Nor will I be cooking for a while, as I'll be browsing on the leftovers from Christmas dinner, as well as cherries and mangoes and watermelon. It's summertime and I always have this bowl filled with cherries on my Christmas table. And there is some of the "Christmas Crack" I made for Kris Kringle "home-made" presents left over, so I guess I'll be nibbling on that, too. It's very yummy. Recipe here.

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Happy Boxing Day!

Dickens 3Nicola here! I hope everyone has enjoyed a happy and peaceful Christmas Day. In the UK it's Boxing Day, an odd title that has nothing to do with the sport of boxing but lots to do with boxes. (I'm told that Boxing Day isn't celebrated in the US although it is in some other countries. I'm hoping people around the globe can let me know whether it is or not.) The first written mention of "boxing day" comes from Samuel Pepys diaries in 1663: "Thence by coach to my shoemaker's… and gave something to the boys' box against Christmas." The tradition was for patrons to give tradesmen and servants Christmas boxes, usually made of pottery and containing cash or gifts. I Dickens 2 rather like the idea of a pottery box – it's a cut above cardboard, although there are some beautiful cardboard Christmas boxes around.  Five years later, Pepys mentioned boxes again, although he wasn't in quite such a jolly Christmas mood, recording in his diary: "Called up by drums and trumpets; these things and boxes having cost me much money this Christmas."

Christmas boxTo my pleasure I did receive a gift "box" at Christmas; it contains shortbread biscuits and has a picture of a guide dog puppy on the front! What about you – did you receive any Christmas boxes this year? Whether you have been woken by drums or trumpets, or received a lovely china box for Christmas, we wish you a happy boxing day and here are some pictures from Charles Dickens' house to celebrate the festive season!

The Christmas Visitors

Christmas boxNicola here, wishing you a Happy Boxing Day! I hope that your Christmas Day brought you all the things you hoped for. Today, 26th December, is the feast of St Stephen and in some parts of the world is celebrated by eating St Stephen’s Day Pie, which is similar to cottage pie but made using the leftover turkey and ham from the Christmas Day meal. The tradition of Stephening takes place in some English villages, whereby parishoners descend on the rectory and ask for as much free bread, cheese and ale as they can drink!

The name “Boxing Day” can be traced back to the late Roman/early Christian era, when a specialKing-Wenceslas collection was made in metal boxes outside churches to be given to the poor and needy. It is this idea that is thought to have inspired the carol Good King Wenceslas who, on the Feast Day of Stephen, set out through the snow with his trusty page to take food and wine to a poor peasant.

From the Middle Ages onward it became the custom to give money and other gifts in the shape of “Christmas Boxes” to servants, who were also given 26th December off to visit their families. This developed into the Victorian tradition of giving gifts to tradesmen such as the lamplighter and the postman.

IMG_1341_1_1These days Boxing Day is often a day for visiting the family and we have lots of relatives coming to eat with us today. A different sort of winter visitor comes to our garden too – this beautiful fieldfare, feasting on the apples in our garden!

Plenty of Room at the Inn!

Nicola3 Happy Boxing Day, everyone! I have very few photographs from when I was a child but I have managed to find a photo of the family that was taken by my grandmother on a sunny Christmas Day. You can see the balloon decorations in the window! I'm the smallest person in the picture, with a cute hairband. I love my aunt's glamorous 1960s mini kilt and my mother's tartan dress! And the boy with the cat is my cousin Neil who I hero worshipped!

My parents divorced when I was about five and after that I rarely saw my father but I did spend one memorable Christmas with him and his new family when I was about nine years old. My father was the sort of man who might be called a raconteur – he was a great story teller and I often suspected that those stories had received a considerable amount of embroidery and polish. But after my experiences that Christmas I never doubted him again.

On Boxing Day, December 26th, we all set off to drive to the English Lake District for the day. It was Scafell_pike beautiful sunny weather, cold but clear, and my father fancied a bracing walk on the Fells. The Boxing Day walk is a British tradition. We arrived in time for lunch at an inn in a village called Ambleside and most of the adults then went off to climb the mountain Scafell (in the photo), leaving me with my step-cousin Wendy and her mother for the afternoon. By the time that they returned some five hours later it was dark and very cold and the beautiful clear day had turned into a snowstorm with huge flakes falling. We set off for home but after about an hour we had barely gone a half mile. Then we drove into a snowdrift and were completely stuck. It got colder and colder. I remember my father wrapping me in a rug before he and his brother in law went off to fetch help. After about three hours we were rescued by a farmer on a tractor who dragged the car out and towed us back to the inn at Ambleside, where they revived us with Scotch Broth soup and mulled wine (very exciting and intoxicating for a nine year old!) The landlady put me to bed in a huge fourposter with a fat mattress and five hot water bottles. And when I got home the next day and my mother asked me how I had got on, I told her it had been the most exciting Boxing Day I had ever known!

Have you had a Christmas experience that didn't quite turn out as planned?

Wench Memo:

The Word Wenches will be giving away a fantastic prize on January 1st 2011 – a Word Wenches Library containing a book by each of the Wenches! For a chance to win, all you have to do is comment on one or more of our December blog posts. We'll gather the list of names on January 1, 2011 and pick a winner! (If you've already posted in December, you're already entered — comment again for more chances to win!) Good luck to all and Happy Holidays!