In England, Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is kind of a big deal.
A national holiday, it’s a bona fide part of the holiday calendar. It’s the perfect coda to the Christmas celebration. Friends and family not seen on Christmas get together. Everyone’s relaxed. There’re leftovers to be eaten, and lots of football (i.e. soccer) to be seen. There are road races, frozen water plunges and other fun events. And, of course, there’s the shopping, the intensity of which is on par with our Black Friday.
How did we miss out on this Yuletide tradition? Did our Puritanical forebears have such a problem with fun that they cut out a day devoted to it?
Well, while we haven’t officially imported the holiday, we’ve observed it in subtle ways. Yes, there’s the shopping, but there are the day-after get-togethers of folks trying to stretch out the holiday. And, every now then, there’s some expected fun.
Twenty years ago, my wife, one-year-old son and I were at my in-laws place in Upstate New York for the holidays. My in-laws live near a small town known for its antiques, and on that Boxing Day we decided to go antiquing. It’s tough navigating small shops with a stroller, and after following one too many meandering paths of my wife and mother-in-law, I decided to wait outside.
Another dad, tired of antiquing, was outside the shop playing with his children. He was a tall guy, and his kids were hanging on him as if he were a jungle gym. This amused my son to no end, and I was about to say so when I saw that the playful father was none other than Liam Neeson. In the recesses of my mind, I remembered reading an article whereupon he lamented being recognized, so I said nothing.
A short time later, in yet another antique store, I told my wife that I would take the baby outside and said facetiously that maybe I’d bump into another movie star. No sooner had I got outside than I walked right by Geoffrey Rush and Natasha Richardson, Neeson’s wife. Dressed Paris chic and sporting sunglasses, Richardson looked like she had stepped out of the pages of Vanity Fair. Rush, his hair blown back by the breeze and sporting a long, white scarf, looked like he just stepped out of a Broadway theater.
Maybe you’re the type of person who doesn’t think too much about celebrity sightings, and maybe you’re the more healthy for it. But, to see three big-time Hollywood stars, one of whom had just won the Academy Award, in a tiny Upstate New York town, well, that was just so cool.
It was a Boxing Day miracle!