Thursday, December 26, 2013

Just Ew

Happy Boxing Day!

I love it - there are a pile of boxes at the bottom of our stairs. It will be Nick's job to recycle them. Why do I love Boxing Day? It's a day of rest after a day of cooking and a month of ordering, wrapping, packaging, sending, decorating, baking, and generally being cheerful about inane music that is constantly repeating in your head or over cheap department store speakers. I will not miss the commercials. Yes, there is a relief to be finished with Christmas for the year, yet there is still an overarching feeling of Christmas, one that will last until New Years Day, a feeling of good will, of gratitude, all the cheer without the stress.

Yay Boxing Day!

So, I originally thought that it referred to boxing things up and putting them away. No! In fact, there is a long history of celebrating Boxing Day, back to the 1600s, of giving the servants bonuses and a day off to visit their families. That serves me well. On Christmas day, I'm working very hard to make a special meal, to stay up as late as it takes the night before to get everything set up under the tree and the house to look nice while everyone sleeps, then waking at the break of dawn to open presents. I clean up a huge pile of wrapping paper, that paper I so carefully wrapped before, and then I cook a meal that would feed twelve for a family of three. On Boxing Day, I don't cook. I don't clean. I get to sleep in. The music can change. It's lovely.

But can you imagine that next level? It's 1668. You work for a rich family. On Christmas Day and for many days preceding it, you work long hours to serve this family, to wrap their presents, to decorate dust their chandeliers, to hang fresh garland, to make complicated meals and desserts, to entertain and care for their visiting friends.

On Boxing Day, you finally get to celebrate. Though I would guess many of these people went home only to wrap presents, decorate, cook, and entertain for their own families as well. Did they ever really get a break from all the work? It would be interesting to really know.

Would you trade places with someone from the 1600s for just one day?

It's an interesting question. I might be surprised at how difficult it is to eat their food or to use their facilities. Have you ever used a chamber pot? I have, way back when I was a tiny girl and I didn't like it, not one bit. The idea of sliding a pot full of my pee back under the bed and going back to sleep was abhorrent. And there was the problem of emptying it in the morning.

Okay, TMI!

In Ireland, we visited a medieval castle. There were interesting holes with little ramps of stone angling away from the walls which were high up in the castle's walls. I forget the name of the castle, but it was the oldest one we visited, one with mold growing along the walls. When I asked about the holes, the docent told us that people used them as latrines. No wonder there was mold, I thought.

How did I get onto this subject? I have to admit that, as we were walking around this castle, I thought of pedestrian things like that, how the people inside took care of their basic needs. It was so cold and damp inside, I wondered how they even stayed warm.

Yes, I could imagine exchanging places with someone from back then, but I don't know if I'd survive it, or if my sense of decorum would. And remember I don't always have a great deal of decorum. I'm not sure I could stomach a rancid feast, sleep in the bed chambers rampant with bed bugs, or manage in the special little latrines. Remember, it hasn't been all that long since people built outhouses with more than one seat. Just, ew. There's a history for you to think about. I've heard that most of the chamber pots were dumped into the street back in the medieval days.

Just ew.

Thank you for listening, jb

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