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12 December 2016

Boxing Day





In the midst of the busy holiday season (which in our family also includes my daughter's birthday on 13 December) this seems a good time to revisit a post I wrote a while back about Boxing Day.


December 26th is one of my favorite days of the holiday season. A friend and I used to go after-Christmas sale shopping in downtown San Francisco (at seventy-percent off we can afford labels that would otherwise be completely out of reach), look at the decorations, and have a holiday lunch at the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus with a view of Union Square. My friend has moved away, but now I take my daughter Mélanie. Our shopping now includes the Disney Store as well as Saks and Neiman's but we still have lunch at the Rotunda. The last couple of years we've also gone ice skating in Union Square where they set up a holiday rink.

December 26th would also be an important day for the characters in the Regency world of my books, but Mélanie Suzanne Rannoch would not spend the day meeting her friends Cordelia Davenport and Laura Tarrington for an afternoon of shopping in the Burlington Arcade. Instead, Mélanie Suzanne and her husband Malcolm would be presenting Christmas boxes (filled gifts such as food, clothing, toys, and money) to their servants. If they were at Dunmykel, their country house in Scotland, they would hold an open house for their tenants and present them with Christmas boxes (being very responsible landowners, I'm sure Malcolm and Mélanie Suzanne would arrange for a Boxing Day party for their tenants even if they weren't in the country themselves). Being responsible parents, I imagine they would have their children, Colin and Jessica, help fill and distribute the boxes. A far more altruistic way to spend the day, I confess, than sale shopping :-).

December 26th is known as Boxing Day after these Christmas boxes (not, as I vaguely thought as a child when I first read the term in British novels, because it was a day prize fights were held). It coincides with St. Stephen's Day, the day when "Good King Wenceslas looked out" and saw "a poor man gathering winter fuel." The Christmas Box tradition is owed at least in part to the fact that servants would not have December 25th off and so would celebrate with their families on the 26th (taking with them the contents of their Christmas boxes). Thinking about this reminded me once again that there would be a great many people working very hard to keep the elite world of the beau monde running smoothly. Malcolm and Mélanie Suzane are very egalitarian and forward-thinking, but I doubt they'd have done without a staff on Christmas Day. I do think they'd have gone to great lengths to throw a wonderful Boxing Day party, however.
 
Warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

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