YOU think it was Christmas Day I was waiting for?
This is the best bit. The ritual is over. I have given peace and goodwill and I have received it. Mixed, perhaps, with the mildest display of frustration from my wife over the joke dog turd.
The plague of locusts that marched through yesterday swilling anything in a glass and troughing everything on a plate, has left. And they have left me —thanks to my own rat cunning and a sudden shutdown of festive goodwill — enough with which to enjoy Boxing Day. A bottle of port, a sliver of Christmas pudding, a few shards of dry turkey, peace and quiet.
In fact, bugger peace — I’ll settle for the quiet.
It’s been the same since they invented Christmas.
The wise men would have loved Boxing Day. Some serving wenches to peel the dates, a few more to work the fans, and enough spare time to wonder whether it would have been wiser to bring nappies. How would that feel after several weeks trudging round the desert following a star on nothing more than a hunch?
And Mary! How would Mary have felt after a few hours labour, trying to remember the breathing under the ruminating gaze of a few slot-eyed goats who wondered what all the groaning was about?
He might have been the Saviour of the World, but he would still have weighed a fairly un‑elastic eight pounds, more or less.
Mary would have loved Boxing Day, too.
It’s because you can stop. Christmas Day is compulsory. The only way of escaping it, besides dying, is to become a Jehovah’s Witness. It is not meant to be a day off. Indeed, it involves more planning than Queensland’s electricity supply. You have to work at it.
It’s the single most stressful event on the human calendar. The Christian human calendar of course.
But today — Boxing Day — we are reborn. As slobs.
Today I will wear my old trousers. Possible a tea-stained old T-shirt if the weather is cool; otherwise I’ll be bare-chested and I will scratch myself unfurtively. My wife will huff, but she knows the rules. If anyone telephones with plans to come visiting she will, may the gods always bless her, put them off, at least until tomorrow; preferably to next year (which is, after all, only six days away).
But we get days off every week, I hear you say. Two of them for most people, at the weekend.
But you’re wrong!
The weekend is not when you do nothing. The weekend is when you mow lawns, and fix leaks. Indeed, the weekend is worse than the weekdays because you still work but no one pays you!
In a fit of gender-based team spirit someone will complain that I can only do nothing on Boxing Day because my wife will still be working: tidying up from yesterday’s holocaust, wrestling the extra table back into the garage, taking out the garbage.
She will, it’s true, but the thing is — she doesn’t have to! Nor do you!
You’re all free to do as I do. Nothing. The garbage, the table, the washing up…. it’ll all wait until tomorrow. I am happy to eat off a dirty plate and I can drink the port from the bottle.
I won’t even bother to read a newspaper — and that’s something you can’t claim at this precise moment!