In Britain, the day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day. Every December 26 I wonder what in the world that means — and I never find out for sure. Maybe someone can tell me, Victoria, what it is. Definitively!
This Cartoon has the right spirit IMHO
Here’s what Wikipedia says: “The exact etymology of the term “boxing day” is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive.” This comes after they have already defined Boxing Day as a time when servants get their gifts.
So I turned to Snopes — which says the claim that Boxing Day means it is time to get rid of Christmas boxes is false… so where besides Nordstrom’s do stores have boxes any more?
Snopes goes on: “The holiday’s roots can be traced to Britain, where Boxing Day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day. Reduced to the simplest essence, its origins are found in a long-ago practice of giving cash or durable goods to those of the lower classes. Gifts among equals were exchanged on or before Christmas Day, but beneficences to those less fortunate were bestowed the day after. And that’s about as much as anyone can definitively say about its origin because once you step beyond that point, it’s straight into the quagmire of debated claims and dueling folklorists.”
I was amazed to find how many images Google has for Boxing Day, though they hardly solve the mystery.
As far as I can tell around here (midwest US), it’s the day to run around and buy next year’s decorations and wrappings at half price. Perhaps the cats should have the last word on the subject!
My Own Heart – The London coach arrived today, bringing with it your gift of a partridge and a pear tree. You are too clever by half! Yours For Eternity
My Love – Two turtle doves! How simply smashing. I cannot wait to see you again that I might thank you personally. You are too droll. For Ever and Ever
Darling – There we were, my footman and I, dispensing bird seed when what should arrive at Blicking Hall but three French hens. You cannot imagine the look they brought to the footman’s face. Truly, you shouldn’t have. Always
Sweetheart – Four calling birds. How quaint. You should know that my lady’s maid is making noises about leaving the Hall. The footman is none too happy, either, although the local carpenter is quite over the moon to have been hired to construct the aviary. Typically, work is scarce for him at this time of year. Love
Dearest – How could you do this to me? I do not mean to be short with you, but none of us here has gotten much sleep of late, what with all the billing, cooing, chirping and calling the birds are wont to do. Yours P.S. Thank you for the five golden rings.
Dear – Now you’ve done it. Cook is quite put out by the six geese laying in her kitchen, and no wonder. You must end this. Accomplished cooks are difficult to come by in the country. As Ever
Dear Sir – I am most heartily sick of the sight of feathers. Your seven swans arrived today and are swimming in the ornamental fountain in the conservatory. Oldham has been snorting at me disdainfully all morning. Have you ever been snorted at by your butler? It’s off putting, to say the least. Happy New Year
Sir – Is there a market for spare goose eggs? The eight maids you sent today are a welcome sight, what with all the seeds and feathers we have to sweep up hourly here. Once they have finished with that, the maids intend to walk to the village, where they are determined to help with the milking. Wherever shall they all sleep? Please Cease and Desist
To Whom It May Concern – This daily gift giving business is no longer amusing. The entire village have followed the nine drummers drumming to our door. The staff are up in arms, save for the footman, who has not been seen since shortly after the eight maids arrived. Stop it!
You black hearted scoundrel – the magistrate appeared at Blicking Hall today. It transpires that the villagers are being driven to distraction by the ten pipers and their constant piping. Perhaps you should have sent mimes.
Could you not have sent the eleven ladies dancing to Almack’s instead of to me? Do these outrageous gifts have anything to do with the betting book at White’s? Is that idiot Brummell somehow involved? Have you a good receipt for fowl fricassee?
My entire staff have deserted me, taking with them the maids, pipers, dancing ladies and, blessedly, the drummers. There is the tiniest bit of good news – I have been given to understand that some of them have made successful matches and are currently bound for Gretna Green. I was headed to my rooms with a bottle of port when who should arrive but twelve lords a leaping. And what lords they are – so handsome, so gallant, so utterly divine! How could I have doubted your intentions? Please give my regards to all in London, as I fear I shall be much too occupied here at Blicking Hall to partake of the Season. Your Most Grateful Friend
What would Christmas be without our trimming the tree? Some believe that it was Prince Albert who introduced the custom of the Christmas tree to England, while others maintain that they were introduced to England by King George III’s German wife, Queen Charlotte. However, it was only circa 1848, after the London Illustrated News ran the engraving depicting showing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating around the Christmas tree with their children (above) that this tradition caught on with the public.
The painting above, Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree at Windsor in 1850 as painted by James Roberts (1824 – 1867), depicts presents around the tree from Prince Albert. We thought it might prove amusing to see what others had written about the Christmas tree in centuries past.
From Recollections from 1803 to 1837 by Amelia Murray:
“Christmas-trees are now common. In the early part of this century they were seldom seen, but Queen Charlotte always had one dressed up in the room of Madame Berkendorff, her German attendant; it was hung with presents for the children, who were invited to see it, and I well remember the pleasure it was to hunt for one’s own name, which was sure to be attached to one or more of the pretty gifts.”
From 20 Years at Court
The Hon. Eleanor Stanley (maid of honour to Queen Victoria, 1842-1862) to her Mother, Lady Mary Stanley, Windsor Castle, Saturday, Dec. 25th, 1847.
“Dearest Mama,—A merry Xmas, and many happy returns of the day to you and all the family at the dear old Castle. Yesterday evening we were desired, at a quarter to seven, to come down to the Corridor, to get our Gifts; we found all the gentlemen and Mrs. Anson already assembled, and presently the page desired us to go to the Oak-room, where the Queen and Prince already were, standing by a large table covered with a white cloth, in the middle of which was a little fir-tree, in the German fashion, covered with bonbons, gilt walnuts, and little coloured tapers. I send a bonbon as a Christmas box to little Blanche, which I took off the tree. . . . The children had each a little table with their new toys, and were running about in great glee showing them off; Prince Alfred, in a glorious tinsel helmet that almost covered his face, was shooting us all with a new gun, and Princess Alice was making us admire her dolls, etc. They had one Christmas tree among them, like us, but the Queen, Prince, and Duchess had each one, and altogether I never saw anything prettier than the whole arrangement.”
From The Memoirs of Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck
Cambridge Cottage, January 1, 1848.
“My Dearest Draperchen, (her former governess, Miss Draper, whom she addressed as ‘Ma chere Draperchen), . . . Our Christmas went off very well. The room was beautifully decorated ; there were four fine trees, and these were connected by wreaths of laurel evergreens and holly.”
by the same author
Cambridge Cottage, January 9, 1849
“The Christmas holidays have been very happily spent by the inmates of Cambridge Cottage, and I have received a number of cadeaux! Our Trees were arranged in the Conservatory, which was hung with festoons of evergreens, from which transparent lamps were suspended. The whole was well lighted up, and looked remarkably pretty, and the three trees were quite covered with bon-bons and fruit.”
From My Reminiscences By Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower
“At Trentham, Christmas 1854, I find, on turning the pages of that record of my early years, much detail regarding our Christmas gifts and of the Christmas tree; now so general in English homes at Yuletide, but then hardly seen but in a few English houses. Our German tutor claimed to have introduced this pretty custom in this country in our family, the first implanted out of Germany having been erected by him in the hall at Stafford House. Until recently there was always one of these Christmas trees, richly decked, placed in one of the drawing-rooms at Trentham on Christmas Eve; and the household attended to see the illuminations and receive the gifts that were one by one cut off from the lighted boughs. No one was forgotten, from the most honored of the guests down to the kitchen-maids and stable-men. Christmas was worthily maintained in those days at Trentham. Generally after the tree there came a ball for the servants, given in a long gallery overlooking the stable-yard. All took part in the dances, which, with itscountry dances and Highland flings and reels, when the Scotch piper was in great demand, were always most successful festivities.”
From Letters by Lady Harcourt, December 17, 1885
“Yesterday I made an excursion to the city with Hilda Deichmann and her husband to buy things for our Christmas trees. It was most amusing ransacking in all the big wholesale houses, and reminded me of my childish days and similar expeditions to Maiden Lane . . . . . . . . Our shopping was most successful. All the prettiest things come from the German shops. The ginger-bread animals were wonderful,—some horses and dogs with gilt tails and ears most effective. The decorations were really very pretty—the stars and angels quite charming.”
by the same author
To G. K. S., Albert Gate, London, December 24, 1885.
“The sisters and I have been shopping all day getting the last things for the tree, which is to be on the 26th. The streets are most animated, full of people, all carrying parcels, and all with smiling faces. . . We wound up at the Army and Navy Stores, and really had some difficulty in getting in. They had quantities of Christmas trees already decorated, which were being sold as fast as they were brought in.”
Does pudding make you think sex? Probably not. When someone says “pudding” most people think of the dessert easily made from a box. Its popularity has fallen in favor of cakes, pies, and ice cream.
But once upon a time, pudding was polarizing. Political factions rose up over the food. Laws were debated in England’s Parliament. Citizens clashed (and yes, even rioted!) over the right to feast as they saw fit. Pudding was surprisingly a contentious issue in England’s history. For a time, the dish was on the outs.
Georgian England, thank goodness, recovered their decorum. King George I was served pudding at Christmas dinner and he thought the dish divine. Pudding was back.
But, why all the hubbub over…pudding? Let me explain.
A funny thing happened during Christmas
Medieval England was largely Catholic. Christmas Day was generally somber with Epiphany (the twelve days following Christmas) the time to party big—in many cases with Mardi Gras-esque debauchery. Historically speaking, Mardi Gras actually begins on January 6th (Twelfth Night).
In modern times, that kind of revelry stays in New Orleans. But, imagine what would happen if it cropped up all over? Some would denounce the excess. In early 17th century, many did.
Naughty, sexy pudding
When Oliver Cromwell came to power, Parliament demanded change in England’s Christmas festivities. Pudding was an often-discussed dish. Lawmakers (many of them Puritans) called pudding “lewd” and “unfit for God-fearing people.” Puritans weren’t the only pudding-bashing group. Quakers claimed pudding was “the invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon.”
These groups objected to what went into dessert puddings, brandy being a chief ingredient. Those opposed to pudding felt the food added to drunken, licentious behavior. Of course, we know today high temperatures cook the alcohol, leaving only the flavor. You won’t get drunk on pudding.
But, Cromwellian leadership took the excesses to heart. They banned Christmas. They ordered shops to stay open on Christmas Day. Soldiers patrolled the streets and seized “Christmas feast food” which especially meant sinful pudding!
To be fair, the Scottish Kirk (church) had outlawed Christmas decades earlier. People north and south of the River Tweed were sickened by the gluttony of sins. When Cromwell’s reign ended, Charles II was restored to the English throne. Yet, Christmas and its famed pudding didn’t come roaring back. Citizens worn out from in-fighting didn’t rush to reinstate the old way of celebrating the holiday.
The Complaint of Christmas
It took satirist John Taylor to bring people to their senses. In his pamphlet, The Complaint of Christmas, Taylor decried the “harmless sports” of the holiday which “are now extinct and put out of use… as if they had never been.” He rightfully pointed out “the merry lords of misrule [are] suppressed by the mad lords of bad rule at Westminster.”
Christmas crept back…more like a lamb than a lion, but it was back. In moderation.
It took George I enjoying his first Christmas dinner as England’s monarch to bring pudding again into holiday popularity. The tasty dish was de rigueur!
Here’s to your Christmas feast (with pudding or without).
Gina Conkle writes lush Viking romance and sensual Georgian romance. Her books always offer a fresh, addictive spin on the genre with the witty banter and sexual tension that readers crave. She grew up in southern California and despite all that sunshine, Gina loves books over beaches and stone castles over sand castles. Now she lives in Michigan with her favorite alpha male, Brian, and their two sons where she enjoys recreating recipes from the past.