Despite Britain’s crumbling coastlines, decimated industries and exponentially growing preponderance of reality-television shows, we do have one advantage still over the rest of the world: Boxing Day.
Why have 24 hours of Christmas, when you can stretch it out to 48 hours thanks to this very British tradition, based on when servants and tradesmen received gifts from their employers and customers (yes, it’s a bit of a shame that part of it derives from the country’s ingrained class system, but there you have it).
Last night we got to watch the class system in all its vapid glory thanks to the Christmas television special of Downton Abbey.
I’ve always thought the series rather over-rated and naff but I’ll admit I watched the whole programme (mostly because it was the path of least resistance being virtually immobile having eaten so much–my stomach appeared to be in the first trimester of pregnancy).
Boxing Day got off to a harried start thanks to a flat tire on the car. Once my dad and I made it to Tesco for yet another food shop, I couldn’t help but sense as I stood at the checkout till wearing one of my Christmas presents–a red jumper (sweater) with a couple of reindeer on the front–that the young guy serving us was thinking, “He looks a bit of a d**khead” (quite possibly a justified summation).
Not quite so justified, on the other hand, was the marked difference between the U.S. and the U.K. in terms of social interaction as the sullen-faced youth handed my dad his change with a desultory, “There you are, mate.” I imagine that about 50 odd years separated them in age.
In the States most people can stretch to a “sir” and a smile, which doesn’t seem such a bad thing.
So thumbs up for Boxing Day, but more of a thumbs down for British surliness and utter indifference to one’s elders or showing a spot of humility through a modicum of politeness.