A Happy New Year

2018

to All!

from

SilverTiger and Tigger

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Boxing Day

Tuesday, December 26th 2017

Today, December 26th and the day after Christmas Day, is known in the UK and sundry other anglophone countries as Boxing Day. In liturgical contexts it is also known as St Stephen’s Day or the Feast of St Stephen in commemoration of the man considered to be the first Christian martyr.

The word ‘boxing’ in the name of the festival puzzles many. As a child, I was told that it was called thus because in (unspecified) olden times, people visited one another on Christmas Day to leave gifts which the recipients opened only on the following day, removing the contents from the boxes in which they were packaged, hence (un)boxing day. I’m pretty sure this is a myth or, perhaps more fairly, a misapprehension, because popular wisdom has a habit of coming close to the truth while narrowly missing it.

An alternative suggestion is that the day following Christmas Day was by tradition the appointed occasion when people who provided services to householders throughout the year (deliverymen, rubbish collectors, postmen, etc) would call on them to receive a small extra cash remuneration. Such a gratuity was called a ‘Christmas box’. The phrase came to be used beyond the context of tradespeople and householders and I remember as a child being given my ‘Christmas box’, a small sum of money, by neighbours and family friends. But why call this a ‘Christmas box’? That indispensable doyen of linguistic curiosities, Michael Quinion, provides the following explanation:

We have to go back to the early seventeenth century to find the basis for the name. The term Christmas box appeared about then for an earthenware box, something like a piggy bank, which apprentices and other workers took around immediately after Christmas to collect money. When the round was complete, the box was broken and the money distributed among the company.

That adequately explains it, at least to my mind, and I don’t think we need search any further. The term ‘Christmas Box’ came to be used more widely as a synonym for ‘Christmas present’ and I read somewhere that during the First World War, folk in Britain and Germany sent ‘Christmas Boxes’ to troops serving on the front line.

We spent yesterday, Christmas Day, at home. We knew all shops, cafes and restaurants would probably be closed and the cold weather provided a strong disincentive to go wandering about on the off-chance of finding something open. Instead we stayed warmly indoors, eating our Christmas fare, opening gifts and snoozing. Today we sallied forth to see what, if anything, the world had to offer.

Café Zédel
Café Zédel

Knowing my love of the traditional French cafe and my grief at its decline and disappearance from the streets of its homeland, Tigger took me to Café Zédel in Piccadilly. We arrived too late for the breakfast menu but consoled ourselves with croissants and coffee. Designed as a replica of a traditional old-time French café, complete with fin de siècle advertisements and theatre posters, with service provided by waiters traditionally dressed in black waistcoat and white apron, the cafe is part of Brasserie Zédel, which also offers a Bar Américain, the brasserie dining room and live entertainments. The American Bar was closed but I did step into the brasserie, whose magnificent décor made me vow to return one day soon.

Christmas decorations, Carnaby Street
Christmas decorations, Carnaby Street

We walked along Carnaby Street and dutifully photographed the Christmas decorations. Carnaby Street is still famous and still much visited by tourists but is only a shadow of its former self. It seems to have become the haunt of dull but pretentious fashion boutiques.

Christmas decorations, Newburgh Street
Christmas decorations, Newburgh Street

In Newburgh Street, the Christmas decorations took the form of colourful flying parrots which I thought unusual and imaginative. I was motivated to take a closer view:

Flying parrot Christmas decoration
Flying parrot Christmas decoration
(Newburgh Street)

Quite a few shops, pubs and cafes were open again but it was cold and the streets were uncomfortably crowded so we caught a bus home and continued our Christmas there.

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A Merry Christmas

2017

To Everyone!

from

SilverTiger and Tigger

 

Posted in Merry Christmas | Tagged | 7 Comments