Saturday, December 26, 2009

An English Tradition: Boxing Day

As my faithful readers know, when Jeff and I were first married we lived in Canterbury, England for a year and a half. We celebrated some pretty memorable holidays there, including Thanksgiving and Boxing Day.

While we imported Thanksgiving as an excuse for a party, Boxing Day is a traditional English holiday. Boxing Day was traditionally a day for giving gifts to people who work for you (laborers and servants) or for making charitable gifts. But, it has become a day for visiting friends and neighbors, often to give a small sweet or gift.

We did not know this.

So, we spent Christmas hosting a friend from the States who was studying in Spain and a fellow student of mine who was from Belarus (a former Soviet state). I made a big Christmas dinner and Sergei brought as his gift four bottles of vodka and the world's worst cake, which he purchased. I don't remember eating the cake, but I do remember drinking the vodka. And drinking and drinking...

Sergei never seemed to run out of things to toast. At some point I started to throw my shots over my shoulder so I wouldn't have to drink any more. The evening ended with the hostess laying down saying, "Turn the lights out when you leave, would you?"

Sergei left as if he'd never had a drop, but the rest of us were a little less steady. No one was in any shape to clean up, so we left the place a total wreck and went to bed.

Sometime late the next morning we recovered enough to drag ourselves from our beds. Chris, our friend from the States, and Jeff went down into town so Chris could see some of the sights and take some pictures. After they left I debated whether to go back to bed or to clean up.

Now you have to understand that our place was tiny. As in 12x12 tiny. We had one room for sleeping, eating and studying. It was tight quarters! We shared a kitchen and a bathroom down the hall. So when I say the place was a complete mess, I mean the WHOLE place. There wasn't a door to close or a neat room where we could go.

And yet, thanks to our Belarusian friend's hospitality, I almost laid back down in the middle of the mess and went to sleep.

But, I just couldn't do it. I washed all the dishes, threw out the empty bottles, scrubbed the carpet, ran the vacuum, tackled the kitchen and finally took a shower myself. I had just finished getting dressed when the bell rang. I ran downstairs, thinking that Jeff and Chris had forgotten the key.

And there on my doorstep was Jeff's professor John and his lovely wife Mavis, come to visit for Boxing Day. Of course the only polite thing to do was to invite them in and offer tea. But I may have had a series of small strokes when I thought about how awful this could have been had I not cleaned up.

Now John and Mavis are two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, and I am certain that they would have politely and graciously ignored the mess. But I'm sure glad I didn't have to leave them on my doorstep while I threw dirty dishes into my closet.

Shortly after I prepared tea for our guests, I heard Jeff on the stairs. I met him in the hallway. He had heard our voices and had a look of absolute horror on his face.

"John and Mavis are here," I said.

He could hardly speak. "In our apartment?"

"Yes, and you owe me one," I said as I opened the door to an immaculate room and a nice tea set out on the table.

We enjoyed a pleasant hour with our company, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when they left.

I'm sure there's a lesson here about always being prepared. Or not overindulging. Or at least knowing the local customs. Or possibly about not drinking with a Russian.

Not that I learned any of those lessons, except possibly the one about local customs.

I actually like the idea of Boxing Day as a day to visit with your friends and neighbors. So come on over.

Just be prepared to take a booster seat off your chair, ignore the fact that the floor in Highchair Alley needs to be scrubbed, and step over a couple dozen My Little Pony pieces when you get here.

Maybe if you're lucky, I'll serve vodka.

1 comment:

Suz said...

Your memory is definitely a doozy! This year I prepared a feast for the Hordes of Harolds on 12/26. I thought we had it well-planned. Until the power went out at 10am.