December 26, 2000, Tuesday
Any American who’s had to return to work the day after Christmas because it fell on a weekday will agree it’s very civilized to turn the event into a two-day holiday. Thus December 26 is Boxing Day in England and elsewhere, though not in the United States. Wikipedia says:
In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for 19 December 1663. This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and maybe sometimes leftover food.
For us, though, Boxing Day was literal: packing. We eased into the morning with breakfast and luggage. And after good-byes and photos, we loaded the car and set off for Heathrow, where we attempted to spend up all our leftover pounds in the gift shop before we boarded.
Our flight was packed with Brits coming to the States for a quick holiday before the new year—many of them to ski in the Northeast, it appeared. And this time I stayed awake, availing myself of Virgin’s movies on demand (Wonder Boys—with Michael Douglas, Robert Downey Jr., and Frances McDormand—was hilarious and fabulous; I still can’t understand why it failed at the box office).
We arrived in New York in the middle of winter, all of a sudden, after our mild English days. The temperature, we were told, was 28°F, but with the wind chill factor it was down below zero. We caught the shuttle to the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, ordered room-service hamburgers, and fell exhausted into bed.
The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn to catch a 6:35am flight into Nashville—groan—but it felt good to be home in spite of all that.