Wednesday, December 26, 2012

LIZ SMITH: Boxing Day Thoughts

by Liz Smith

“ONCE described as the perfect example of Victorian trickle-down magnanimity, Boxing Day has long been the day when gratitude is shown to those who have provided service throughout the year.”  

So says the “Schott’s Original Miscellany.” Boxing Day is celebrated as a national holiday in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada. Why? Because it is also known as the Feast of St. Stephen, after the first Christian martyr. Queen Victoria loved Boxing Day and more or less endorsed it.
What has happened to Boxing Day? Well, some say it made English-speaking people greedy and feeling that they don’t get enough goodies before and during Christmas, so they expect extras on Boxing Day.

In the U.S. I fully expect that servants, helpers, employees, aides and just plain people doing good things might revolt if their gifts were pushed off to the day after Christmas. The new Boxing Day sport is “shopping.” It is also a big day for sports events when people are coming down off of Christmas.  Why was it so named? Because a Christmas gift in English speaking countries was always called a “Christmas Box” from “servant” to “master.”
Boxing Day might have even started back in the Middle Ages, but the English began finding it onerous to be accosted by strangers in the street with their hands out. After this, public gentility and gratitude seems to have ended and retreated into privacy.  Now it’s pretty much just a name to toss on the day after Christmas.

During this time of disillusion, the one thing that did last was Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Composed from 1734-5 it is based on texts by Picander, taking the form of the days between Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th of January.

With the New Year approaching, don’t you anticipate having to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” which was written by Robert Burns?

Robert Burns (1759 – 1796), from "The Poetry of Burns," 1896.
Why not memorize it the way he wrote it?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

And surely, ye’ll be your pint
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup of kindness
Yet, for auld lang syne.
(You’ll buy your pint, I’ll buy mine
and we’ll drink together.)

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine.
(We two have run about the hills,
pulling daisies)

But we’ve wander’d mony a
Fitt, sin auld lang syne.
(We’ve wandered long distances
since old times.)

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine.
(We’ve paddled in the brook,
from morning until night)

But seas between us braid hae
Roar’d, sin auld lang syne.
(But we’ve been separated by
oceans since old times)

And there’s a hand, my
Trusty fiere, and gie’s
A hand o’thine,
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-
waught, for auld lang syne.
(Let’s join hands, my friend,
and we’drink together.)  

This is all from Scotsman Capital Management at 150 East 52 Street, NYC 10022.   The American Scottish Foundation often salutes Robert Burns at the University Club. 

There is another song from this troop titled “To a Haggis,” but I will spare you that.

Contact Liz Smith here.

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