Boxing Day – By chef and author Ian Downing
Boxing Day heralds the end of the massive build up to Christmas day. Boxing Day is the day you wake up and realise it will be another blessed eleven months until you have to shop again to the sounds of Aled Jones, Bing Crosby or Slade; or nearly a year before you have to battle again, shoulder to shoulder in the supermarket to pick out the best sprouts or secure the last panettone or organic bronze turkey.
Boxing Day is the day you can stay in bed a bit longer and not have to jump up at 5am to get the damn thing in the oven or have the children climbing all over you asking if it’s Christmas day yet and can they open their presents?
Boxing Day is the day the pressure is off because things don’t have to be ‘perfect’. There will be no last-minute crisis, relatives to pick up from the station or worries over whether you have enough booze in because Uncle Derek is coming, and he drinks like it’s a competition.
Boxing Day is the day you don’t have to cook because there are still enough leftovers in the fridge to feed a convention of vultures. It is the day, weather permitting when everyone goes out for a walk to escape the living room fug and the banal TV, the children can show off their new bikes and scooters and Dad can wear the matching scarf and bobble hat that colour- blind Auntie May knitted him.
It’s the day the advertisements suddenly change from supermarkets selling mince pies and special puds that made you put on two kilos, to firms encouraging you to get slim or get fit or book a holiday for six months’ time. It is hopefully the end of the bandying around of phrases like Black Friday, Scaremongering Tuesday, Last Minute Wednesday and If You Don’t Buy It Now You’re A Failure Thursday.
Boxing Day is the day you cart all the cardboard boxes, torn wrapping paper, dead crackers, empty bottles, paper party hats and sweet wrappers out to the recycling bin, trying to force it down to get the lid closed while wondering how we ever got to this level of consumerism.
Boxing Day gets its name from the Victorian tradition of wealthy families giving their servants a Christmas box full of goodies that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford. There were two reasons it took place on Boxing Day – one, because the servants probably had to work on Christmas Day and two because it enabled the family to offload all the things they didn’t want.
In the dim and distant past when dinosaurs roamed the earth sales only ever started on Boxing Day and because news was rather thin on the ground after the holiday, people would be filmed queueing at four in the morning to be first through the doors with further scenes of individuals fighting over coveted items. People boasted of how they bought all of next year’s presents and cards at these sales either in a show of ultra-organisation or extreme meanness. Today there are sales all year round and nobody believes they are genuine and besides the only thing people bother to queue for today is the latest I‑phone.
If you’ve had enough retail therapy, you can go to any number of events on Boxing Day. The new normal might affect some of these events but there will still be horse racing at Fontwell Park, a concert at the bandstand on Eastbourne seafront and ice skating outside the Pavilion in Brighton but the event that gets my vote is the pram race at Pagham for just being plain barmy.
It takes place every year on Boxing Day whatever the weather. It was thought up by a group of demobbed servicemen in 1946 presumably over a pint in the pub. The race takes place between teams comprising one person in a pram and the other pushing, over a three mile stretch and stopping at four pubs on the route where the pusher and the ‘baby’ each have to drink a pint. Nowadays the prams and costumes get more and more outrageous, entries come from as far away as Australia and the USA and they raise huge amounts for charity.
Sounds like my sort of Boxing Day entertainment – now where’s that old pram I used to have?