Saturday, 26 December 2009

On the feast of Stephen

Franz and I like to blow away the cobwebs on Boxing Day. Then we like to go outside and get some fresh air.

But why is it called Boxing Day? Some folk will tell you that it is to do with church poor boxes or even the boxes left over after the Christmas presents have been unwrapped. But the truth lies elsewhere.

The name is a hangover from pagan days when, a few days after the winter solstice - on a day roughly corresponding to St Stephen's Day - the children of the village would engage in a free-for-all bout of bare-knuckle boxing. This could last several hours depending on the conditions and the ages of the combatants. The last child standing would receive an orange.

This fine old tradition was a feature of English village life until just a few years ago when the so-called government decided to ban it. Yet another example of how this nanny state simply does not understand what makes the English countryside tick.

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