A Sparkling Vintage Life

Episode 25: Boxing Day


Join Jennifer as she talks about “olden days” Boxing Day and muses about New Years resolutions.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript of this episode.

Show notes:

Rock’Em, Soc ‘Em Robots are still around! Go figure.

Jennifer at The Daily Connoisseur shared an amusing-yet-horrifying story about the purported return of visible underwear.

Transcript of Episode 25: Boxing Day

Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we discuss all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. It’s episode 25, and it’s December 26, 2019, as I record this. In some countries, mostly those with ties to the United Kingdom, it’s Boxing Day! My mother was Canadian, and she always declared how she enjoyed Boxing Day almost more than Christmas. The pressure was off, the feast was over, the presents unwrapped, but we still had plenty of delicious leftovers to eat and a schedule free of obligations so we could play with our toys and put the house back in order in a relaxed, peaceful way. We didn’t yet have to go back to work or school, so it was just a lazy day of rest and recovery. Which is mostly what today has been for me.

When I was very young I thought “Boxing Day” had something to do with the sport of boxing. In that era there was a popular children’s game called “Rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots” in which robot figurines would pummel each other in a boxing ring. I imagine this sort of thing has been deemed too violent for children nowadays. I can’t remember if my brothers owned one, but I certainly saw plenty of commercials for it on our old black-and-white rabbit-ear TV. Anyway, my mother had to correct my misconception and explain that, no, Boxing Day didn’t involve anyone hitting anyone else. On the contrary, the focus was on charity and giving to those less fortunate.

The term “Boxing” in this case refers to the literal boxes that were used to pack up the remains of the feast and other items to be given away. It was the custom for the poor to go around begging the leftovers of the Christmas feast. Some English churches handed out bread and cheese and ale. At least one church discontinued this practice when rioting broke out among the recipients.

Boxing Day was, and remains, a servants’ holiday, when they were given the day off after being run off their feet to serve the nobles’ their Christmas feast. Gifts and food were distributed to the servants, the peasants, and those who worked the land. Even when the gifts became money instead of objects, the term “Christmas box” remained in use.

In some countries Boxing Day was also when tradesmen like butchers and bakers made the rounds of their customers, collecting their annual Christmas box or tip. This was done into the twentieth century, although I understand it is no longer practiced. Not the showing up on people’s doorsteps, anyway.

December 26 has also been called St. Stephens Day, a tradition dating from the Dark Ages. I learned in my research that there were two St. Stephens. I knew of one–the Stephen of the Bible whose story is told in the book of Acts. Stoned to death for his steadfast faith, this Stephen was Christianity’s first recorded martyr. The second Stephen lived in the 800s and shared the gospel in Sweden. He, too, was martyred for his faith. Apparently this second Stephen loved horses, and so horse-racing became a tradition observed on Boxing Day in some parts of the world. In addition to horse racing, other popular Boxing Day activities are football (American soccer) and cricket–but not, as it were, the sport of boxing.

St. Stephens Day might ring a bell for those who remember the carol about Good King Wenceslaus, who looked out of his palace “on the feast of Stephen.” This song whose lyrics tell about a rich king helping the poor was written in 1853 and reflected the Victorian respect for almsgiving and the charitable focus of the day.

Coming up next week, of course, will be New Years’ Eve revelry and the New Years’ Day and the making of resolutions for 2020. I no longer make New Year’s resolutions. They never seemed to stick, anyway. These days I make “prayer intentions” for the new year–an idea I got from author Rachel Hauck. I pray about those things I’d like to see happen in 2020, the things I want to do and the person I want to become. By praying about these things instead of “resolving” them,  I acknowledge that I’m not in charge of my life. God is in charge. I don’t make things happen under my own power. I have no power. God has all the power, and I submit my will to his. That doesn’t mean I don’t set goals and align my efforts to make them happen. I do set goals, and maybe I’ll talk about that process in a future episode. But I also understand that only God sets the true course of my days. Only he knows how my day, my year, and my life will play out in the end.

How about you? Do you set goals for the new year? Are you happy, sad, or indifferent to see 2019 go and 2020 arrive?  Does your family observe Boxing Day?  Feel free to leave a comment at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast under episode 25, or send an email to jenny@sparklingvintagelife.com  And I’ll be back in a moment with today’s grace note.

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Today’s grace note is a short article about New Year’s resolutions written in 1920 by Barbara Ellison. Being as it was published in Inspiration, the magazine of the Women’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, it’s no wonder that the resolutions have less to do with personal character and more to do with one’s wardrobe. I think you’ll get a kick out of her advice, much of which still applies today.

Buy wisely, and unless you have definite use for an article, do not buy it. Wait until your wardrobe is definitely assembled in your own mind and everything “fits in,” hat, shoes, gloves, purse, not to mention stockings and slips.

Be slim by being trim, be attractive by being immaculate. See that the seams of your stockings run straight and the heels of your shoes never run over. Keep your gloves clean. Never allow spots to mark your clothes nor perspiration to deface a gown. And never allow your shoulder straps to protrude. You can keep them out of sight by sewing one end of a ribbon or a piece of bias tape to the shoulder. Fasten it with a snap at the other end; then snap it around the straps of your undergarments.

One of the greatest virtues of the right clothes, rightly worn, is that they enable us to forget them and ourselves. When they are right enough for us to do this, we become our most likable and natural selves and, even if your features are not perfect nor perfectly assembled, we may someday hear of ourselves in one of those sibilant whispers that so audibly clothe a spoken confidence, “What a charming woman!”

Thanks for listening! Check back soon when I’ll share another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.

 

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Jennifer Lamont Leo