The Heatley Cliff The Case For An American Boxing Day Amy Foster

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Last year around this time, I mentioned several ways in which one could connect with their inner Downton Abbey at Christmas. I briefly touched on the subject of Boxing Day, but I’d like to revisit it this year because for me, it is one of the best – if not the best – parts of the holiday season.

I’ve stated for the record several times that I am a Halloween girl. I’m not the biggest fan of Thanksgiving and Christmas can set me into a state of panic because I too often think that I am not being Christmas-y enough. I always feel like my outdoor lights are lame and not as nice as my neighbors’. My packages are not wrapped with enough flourish to get the Martha Stewart seal of approval, and although I have many cute little knick knacks with a vintage holiday vibe that I spread around my living room, it never seems cozy or quaint enough to make it inside an illustrated children’s book. I don’t know why, but that’s my bar for some reason.

On Christmas morning, my kids race down the stairs to rip open their presents with a kind of ferociousness that borders on temporary insanity. They are looking, as I did once, for the perfect gift. Then, when everything has been unwrapped, there is always that awkward pause when even my most well-behaved child looks up and says, “Is that it?” Not in a bad or entitled way, just in a way that is like “I HAVE TO MAKE SURE I DIDN’T MISS A SINGLE BOX THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN TOO SMALL FOR ME TO SEE BECAUSE THAT MIGHT BE THE END OF THE WORLD.”

It’s true that Christmas is best enjoyed when seen through the eyes of children: the wonder, the magic, the North Pole. It’s heartwarming. It’s also exhausting. Christmas Day feels like the longest day of the year; like it lasts for 67 hours. The world outside has stopped. Nothing is open. No one is going anywhere. The kids have already been off for days on school break. There is such a build up, the inevitable crash looms. They’ve reached their tipping point. They don’t want to watch Rudolph again. Santa has come. There is nothing to look forward to. Unless, that is, you live in the UK or Canada.

If Christmas is for children, then Boxing Day is for the grown-ups. Boxing Day originated in England when the Lords and Ladies of the Manor would ‘box’ up their discarded clothes and leftover food from the Christmas spread and disperse these “boxes” among their tenants. This tradition has morphed over the years into one in which you either have an open house for friends and family or you go over to various friends and families’ homes – or both.

As a child, of course I loved the presents on Christmas morning, but I looked equally forward to Boxing Day. It was in the homes of my mother or grandmother’s friends that I got to show off what I had received under the tree (usually a cool book or a funky outfit. One year it was velvet knickers. Seriously the most hideous, but I was mad for them). I ate lots and lots of food. I sang carols. I socialized, like a grown up. I was also expected to kind of act like a grown up and I liked this, too.

In Toronto where I was raised, it was not uncommon for my mom and I to visit three or four different houses or have at least 20 people over. On Vancouver Island where my parents were born and most of my family still resides, it wasn’t uncommon for my grandmother and I to visit upwards of seven or eight homes. On years we didn’t go out visiting, we would have over 50 people come over for a yuletide social.

Boxing Day was and still is, I suppose, (I haven’t lived in Canada for a long time) an actual event. Christmas Day is meant to be celebrated with only the closest of relatives. Boxing Day is reserved for hanging out with everyone else in your social and familial circle. It’s another day off of work. It’s another day to celebrate the season and for my money (and seriously, I mean it about the money – Christmas often leaves me in a sweat-induced panic when I think about credit card bills), it’s a more authentic version of the holiday. It’s not about Santa or stockings. It’s about booze and chocolate shortbread. It’s about your elderly relatives getting drunk enough to wax nostalgic about the “olden” days. It’s where I found out about my great aunt’s first love that she almost eloped with or how I heard firsthand about my cousin Billy Foster, the first Canadian in the Indy 500 and his tragic death during a test run. It’s also about seeing people you might not see again until next year’s Boxing Day – which is also kind of cool, for various reasons.

So the question is, why can’t we have the same here? The day after Christmas in this country seems like a day reserved for shopping…again...returning presents…getting deals. THE LAST thing I feel like doing the day after Christmas is going to the mall. Boxing Day may well be the only holiday that you are given a day off to party. Doesn’t that sound great? Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Regardless of whether or not it ever becomes a legal holiday here in the United States, this year my family and I are starting a Boxing Day tradition at our house. We are opening it up to friends, we are going to make themed cocktails, little wieners on toothpicks may be served… it will be awesome. And hopefully, my kids will end up making wonderful Boxing Day memories, just like I did.

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  1. This year my family and I started a new “boxing day” tradition of donating and making bags of necessities and toiletries for the homeless. We live near Portland and there’s a lot of homeless folks downtown. So we just walked around town with small reusable grocery bags full of stuff to hand out. We loved it and next year we think we’re going to do it again and get our church involved. It was interesting to meet new people and to feel like we were helping and not being silly about the holiday. That night we celebrated the season with hard cider and getting the extended fam together for christmas movie marathon that lasted til 5am. it was brilliant! I hope we get to do it again next year! :)