Thursday, December 26, 2019

Boxing Day

Stanley - Thursday

In several countries affiliated to the United Kingdom, the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day. It is also a public holiday, except if it falls on a weekend, in which case the following Monday is the public holiday.

There are two common stories about the origins of Boxing Day, which are quite similar. The explanation I grew up with was that in Britain servants were required to work on Christmas Day, to serve lavish feasts to their employers. The day after Christmas, they were allowed to go back to their families, taking with them a box of goodies from their employers, which would included gifts and often food left-overs.

The other explanation I heard was that people often gave a small gift of money - a tip, if you will - to those who provided a service, but were not employees. My parents would always give the garbage collectors and postman what was called a 'Christmas Box' as a token of their appreciation. I think the term stemmed from the first explanation. These days, in a country with high levels of poverty, everyone who provides a service may ask for a Christmas Box - parking-lot attendants, garage attendants, and so on. It can be a bit overwhelming, particularly when one reflects on the huge disparities of wealth that are so obvious.

As a child, I was not involved in in any of the traditions of giving something on Boxing Day. Nevertheless, I looked forward to the day with great anticipation, because there was usually a major cricket match at the Wanderers cricket ground in Johannesburg. The best were test matches - that is matches between South Africa and a touring team from another country. In those days, those teams would be from Australia, England, and New Zealand - only White players, please.

Wanderers cricket ground
 A typical day of a test match would start at eleven in the morning and go until one, when play would adjourn for lunch. After lunch, play resumed and proceeded for two hours until tea - a short break taken in the locker rooms. The day would end with a final two hours of play. This would be repeated for another four days. Yes, sir! Test matches last for five days of six hours a day.

No wussie gloves for cricketers
So, on Boxing Day, I and some friends would head off to the ground with 30,000 or so other spectators, carrying our own bats and balls to have our own test matches on the field during the lunch break.

We'd take our own bat and ball.

On Boxing Day, the stadium was always full.

Some started younger than me.
What was remarkable is that we would be held enthralled pretty much the whole time, even though were very young. The current ground was opened in 1956, and I can remember going to a test match at the old ground, when I was eight years old.

As for this year, I will wake up early today and indulge in some nostalgia by watching South Africa play England. The hype is still there, and thousands of kids will be saying 'I can't wait!'

I hope you had a fine Christmas holiday, and I wish you a healthy, happy, and calm New Year.

PS.  Just before I went to bed on Christmas night, I watched a bit of the Boxing Day match between Australia and New Zealand. It was being played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (the MCG) in front of 80,000 spectators.

Upcoming events

Hot and Cold Crimes - Sara Blaedel, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, and Michael Stanley (Stan Trollip)
January 5, 2020: 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Hillerød Public Library, Hillerød, Denmark

For details, contact Nanna Bresson at


  1. Stan, such tips at holiday time are expected, and in some cases demanded, by people in the same sorts of jobs in NYC. I hate tipping of all types. It stymies me, since I never a seem to feel confident when doing it. I think that I therefore end up overdoing it. UGH!

    BTW, I haven’t forgotten that you promised—at least four years ago—to take me to cricket match. But I don’t want any of that ugly stuff with players in black and sky blue spandex! I want then to look like the men in the picture about.

  2. In Tudor times the food eaten by the King at Christmas was only the very best. He'd eat the nose of the wild boar, take a mouthful of peacock, a nibble of a swan. The point was to show how rich he was by affording to waste such valuable meat. The massive leftovers were given to staff and then to the poor who queued up at the palace gates the day after Christmas. That 'free food' was known as dole. And today, we call unemployment social security 'The Dole.' as a slightly disparaging term.