Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

26 December 2017

Boxing Day Bicycle

George Bernard Shaw once quipped that England and the US are two countries separated by a common language.

He had a point.  After all, there are specific words we use and they don't, or vice versa. And, of course, there are words and expressions that have different meanings when they are used on one side or another of the Atlantic.  Also, I think we use our language in very different ways, and for very different purposes, from the way it's used on what James Baldwin called the "damp little island."  That, of course, would take a book or two to describe.

Anyway, I'm going to talk about one expression in particular:  Boxing Day. Say it to an American, and it would probably conjure up an afternoon--a Saturday, probably--when men and, possibly, a few boys, go to an arena to see pugilists engaged in their metier.  At least, that's what I thought the first time I heard the expression--from my aunt, who hails from a town across the river from Manchester--many years ago.

She, of course, was referring to today--the day after Christmas, which is celebrated as a holiday in her native land.  It's also observed in just about every country that ever was ruled by the Crown--with the exception, of course, of the good ol' Yoo-Ess-Ayy!

The origins of the day are debated, but most authorities seem to agree that it was a day on which servants, house maids, delivery boys and post men received gifts or gratuities. Since most such workers worked on Christmas Day, they were given the following day off to spend with their families, and were sent off with boxes containing gifts.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Halfords and other retailers hold major sales on that day.   Here in the US, it always seemed to be the day people went to exchange gifts--which, of course, were often in boxes.  

So, I guess, we did keep at least part of the traidition--that of carrying boxes.  Thus, Ann Stuart-Teter had the right idea when she dubbed this photo "Boxing Day Bicycle":


  1. I remember seeing calenders that were meant for sale all over the english speaking world. There was always the notation of "Boxing Day" for Canada and England. I always used to think wow they must really love the sport of boxing if they've set aside a special day for it. I confess I was well into adulthood before I found out what it was all about. Ironically my dads family is from Scotland and my moms family is from Northern Ireland. Never heard any of the older relatives use that term.😃

  2. Phillip--So I'm not the only one who thought about fighters!