Russian Woman Journal

Friday 26 December  2008

DOUG R. (England)

Boxing Day


Boxing Day is the day after Christmas. It must be one of the busiest recreation day in Britain.
A formal public holiday closes most commercial organisations including banks and offices.
Many retailers target this day for special sales promotions, when they sell off old stock at reduced prices.
The countryside is full of social and sporting events, particularly those involving horses.

But where did this name come from?
There are only opinions, not many facts and some of those are obscure.

This day is also known as the Feast of St Stephen’s.
Remember how the carol goes?

‘Good King Wenceslas last looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay all about, crisp and firm and even,’

Why English carols should quote the Patron Saint of Czechoslovakia the Duke of Bohemia approx 1400 AD, I have no idea.

The day after Christmas Day is St Stephens’ Day. St Stephen was the first man to be killed, being stoned to death for publicly declaring his acceptance of the teachings of Jesus.
Around AD 35, he became the first Christian martyr. This is his day.
He is also the Patron Saint of horses. See below.

When landed gentry lived in large houses with peasants, servants or serfs working for them, it was the custom to give extra money to their workers on this day.

Tradesmen who had given satisfactory service during the year could also expect a small box of gifts.

Some families had a box, maybe wooden or possibly clay, where visitors made donations throughout the year.
These boxes were ceremonially smashed and the contents shared out on Boxing Day.

This might be an older practice than we realise. It might have arrived here with the Romans. Clay boxes with slits in the tops for passing coins, were discovered in the ruins of Pompei of erupting volcano fame.


Other families made up food parcels from the left-overs from their Christmas Day meal. These were gathered into boxes for giving out to estate workers the next day.

Maybe a combination of these practices evolved into a tradition of rich landowners/ business owners giving Boxing Day gifts to loyal workers?
The modern business practice of making ‘Christmas bonus payments’ may have originated in this way?

Fox Hunting

Something over 250,000 people will attend their local Boxing Day foxhunt.
It is a popular social occasion, appreciated by those living in the country, completely misunderstood by those living in towns.

Some Hunt members attend on horseback, some follow on foot. All will meet socially beforehand and share a glass of mulled wine or sherry, biscuits mince pies and so on.

Hunts have their own pack of hunting hounds. Their function is to find a fox. They will provoke it into leaving its hiding place and running away.
The hounds follow using their sense of smell. The horses follow the hounds.

Those following on foot use their local knowledge to make short cuts and generally keep in touch with the main chase. This may range over several miles.
Unless old and decrepit, foxes are usually able to outwit the hounds and escape.

Origins in Loyalty
Loyalty has always been a major problem for leaders in charge of men.
Reliable loyal help must be ready to assist the ruler, meanwhile maintaining their skills.
This problem is nothing new. Most leaders have had to deal with it.

The origin of foxhunting stems from the support needs of English kings.
Landowners and their sons benefited from the established feudal system.
They would naturally be expected to support King and country.
Before mechanised warfare, these men supplied the necessary loyal skilled cavalry if their Kingdom was threatened.

Their skills needed to be maintained by constant practice. The special skills involved and required by foxhunting are exactly those required in battle by cavalry.
The ability to control a horse in action must combine relationships with fellow horsemen.
It is best if such men are friends with shared backgrounds, similar habits and ways of thinking.

The single most important skill of cavalry is how to ‘read the lie of land.’
This cannot be learned overnight.
Trained disciplined men require horses which meet certain standards of fitness and behaviour.
The modern ‘Three Day Event’ originated in these early military requirements.
These put to severe test both horse and rider in the old military skills of riding across country and chasing enemy within a concerted viable unit.

The modern foxhunt is a very popular local country social event.

Other Horse Related Events.
Most racecourses hold Boxing Day racedays.

Other local but odd, Boxing day activities include;

Boxing Day Swim, in Tenby, Pembrokeshire South Wales. Hundreds join in a communal plunge into the sea. Entry fees raise cash for a local charity.

Buntingford Brewery Run. (Hertfordshire) Prizes at various levels, entry fees raise cash for charity.

Weyhill Run. At Haslemere near Guildford. Runners receive one pint of beer every two miles, plus various prizes.

There are several local events on similar lines. In London’s Serpentine some make their watery plunge on this day, others prefer New Years’ Day.

It is a day for switching off and pursuing enjoyment, however obscure.

A long way from the day for giving presents to workers and tradesmen.


DOUG R. (England)


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Published in Woman's Magazine Russian Woman Journal  www.russianwomanjournal.com -   26 December 2008


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