26th December 2019

Boxing day in the United States is a strange experience. The populous knows it exists, comprehends it is a celebration of some kind, but has no concept of what to do, what to say, what to eat or how to feel. Rather like the Scots 2nd of January it is a holiday without a definite shape, lacking an exact purpose except perhaps simply to exist. A whole twenty four hours whose only purpose is to relax and recover from festivities seems somehow to go against the Yankee nature, even to represent a waste of valuable commercial possibility, a time when some poor innocent might be cajoled into purchasing something they neither need or want.

There are of course a thousand differing versions of Boxing days origin, of its original purpose, of its celebratory meaning, but personally I prefer to consider and continue the usage my family have traditionally affixed.

Boxing day we rise late, dress warmly, eat a hearty breakfast including much protein and fat, adopt hats scarves and gloves and with great gusto head outwards into a world much like any of the previous thousand years. No meaningful traffic, no undue noise, little celebration beyond the joy of walking, talking, playing and larking together.

Perhaps some irregular football played upon the common land, often with two or more families games becoming intertwined in a pointless, scoreless, rule less, comedic pastiche. True feelings of community, of belonging, of fitting within a hierarchy that gave everyone equal purpose for existence, for everything one did, thought or said.

Soon enough return homeward for a lunch of traditional festive leftovers, cold meats, pan fried vegetables, soups to start, mince pies for afters. Then parlor games, brother against sisters, wives against husbands, males against female, strange alliances that unite, break and reform in pure whimsy, a perfect lampoon of parliament itself.

After a late tea of sandwiches, cake, trifle,  a choice of china or Indian for the adults , ginger beer for the children, the parlor games would take a more serious bent, cards or even games of chance for the grownups, Escalado for the brats bound soon for bed. The exact opportunity for ginger wine, brandies and whisky to be freely quaffed by the elders. Cigars and pipes for the men were de rigour, the more daring ladies might even be seen to partake in a cigarette or two. Famously, my great aunt Rosie would indulge in her toxic East Indian cheroots, sending billowing clouds of thick and intoxicating smoke upwards towards the luckily high and well-lit ceilings whilst beguiling any who might dare to listen with tales of Ouija boards, black magic and strange prophecy.  Rosie was a clairvoyant of some renown in the upper social circles and became quite the celebrity in that regard. She ended up in Toronto, Canada as a star on a major network television channel, one of the original great perpetrators of that particular brand of hocus pocus. I well remember Rosie turning my mother as white as a fresh bleached sheet with her dire pronouncements one infamous Boxing day evening.

I am asked on occasion if I mind living alone, I reply quite truthfully that I find it impossible to recall a time when I have been entirely without company. My ghosts are thick around me always, whispering, cajoling, recanting or reminding me of tales perhaps better forgot.

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