A Few Creatures Stirring, but Not Many
Yesterday was a very quiet day indeed. We took a walk along False Creek and saw a few dog-walkers, joggers and bicyclists, but as we returned via Broadway, the only places open were the Asian restaurants, some of which were doing a brisk business.
Today, however, is Boxing Day (always the day after Christmas), a holiday that I only got to celebrate when I lived in England. According to Wikipedia:
There is great dispute over the true origins of Boxing Day. The more common stories include:
- Centuries ago, merchants would present their servants food and fruits as a form of Yuletide tip. Naturally, the gifts of food and fruit were packed in boxes, hence the term “Boxing Day”.
- In feudal times, Christmas was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which makes it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. After all the Christmas parties on December 25, the lord of the estate would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would get a box full of such goods the day after Christmas. Under this explanation, there was nothing voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was obligated to supply these goods. Because of the boxes being given out, the day was called Boxing Day.
- In Britain many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrive for their day’s work on the day after Christmas (26 December). Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.
- In churches, it was tradition to open the church’s donation box on Christmas day, and the money in the donation box were to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the “box” in “Boxing Day” comes from that one gigantic lockbox in which the donations were left.
- In Britain because many servants had to work for their employers on Christmas day they would instead open their presents (ie. boxes) the next day, which therefore became known as boxing day.
In fact, the way I heard it, because it was the servants’ day off, meals would be a ‘box lunch’ or something like that. Many of these stories follow the same basic idea of giving the working classes a special holiday of their own, which has since many on the Left to decry the holiday as further perpetuation of the separation of the social classes (someone had to serve the Christmas feast, so the servants couldn’t have that day off, therefore they had their own holiday while the rich folks slept in and ate leftovers). It was interesting to see that Granville Market was open Christmas Eve, but was closed both Christmas Day and Boxing Day, which lent further credence to the ‘give The Help a day off’ explanation.
In the Putting Your Ballot Where Your Mouth Is Department
Saw a strange story about Calgary in Boingboing about eating election ballots. Sure enough, it’s a kind of protest by the right-wing people there that there aren’t any choices that they approve of in the election (I’m going to assume that Steven Harper is not Conservative enough for them, since the protest is by followers of Stockwell Day, who lost his post to Harper in 2002).
Good-bye to Uncle Edgar
We just got a phone call that Edgar Johnston, Pam’s Uncle on her father’s side of the family, died at 1 AM this morning. Uncle Edgar, along with Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim, became what the rest of the family referred to as ‘The Traveling Trio’, when we found out that they had set off from Long Island, New York to Quincy, Massachusetts via train, ferry, another train and finally the subway, without telling anyone, so that they could go on an exploratory trip to Quincy, Mass, where Mary and Edgar had previously lived before selling their house and moving in with Jim in Long Island. They had made plans for months, and we suspect that Jim went along with the whole expedition because he had lost his driver’s license (after 4 accidents in the period of a month or so) and thought that the State of Massachusetts would give him a license if New York state would not. Their plan was to buy two small houses and ‘…live next door to each other’. We found out about all of this later but initially we got a call from a hospital in Quincy, at about 4 AM. The three of them had been found, exhausted and confused, in the Boston subway a few hours earlier. It was a pretty remarkable incident, and if one of them hadn’t had Pam’s brother’s business card in their wallet, they might very well have disappeared into the unseen world of the homeless in Boston. We scrambled to get them taken care of, and Pam and her brother became legal guardians of all of them, as they entered a Nursing Home in Weymouth, a nearby town. Uncle Jim died in January before we moved here, and now with Edgar’s death at the age of 93, the sole member of the three travelers is Mary, who is mostly blind and no longer coherent.
Whenever we visited Aunt Mary and Uncle Edgar in Quincy, she was the flamboyant and stylish lady, and he was the absent-minded professor. He was obsessed with his time spent in the army during World War II and as time passed he retreated more and more into that period. I tried to find out why these events in his life seemed to overshadow everything that had come before or since, but he had no explanation other than that was the way he felt. The last time we saw him, he had reverted to the state of an infant, permanently reclined, with soft hands and a vacant stare. He had been this way for months before then and continued living that way for a year, at least, until he simply stopped eating a few days ago. The phrase from Shakespeare’s As You Like It about “All the world’s a stage”, etc. came to my mind — the bit at the end:
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
I’m glad that Edgar finally made his exit, because he spent far too much time in that last scene.