St. Stephen, Boxing with Wrens. And Turtledoves.

Kage Baker referred to the day after Christmas as “Leftover Day.” By mutual consent, we did nothing on this day – no visiting, no shopping, no returns. The goal was to stay in our jammies all day, playing games and music and reading books, eating leftovers as the fit took us.

There are lots of traditions associated with the day after Christmas.  We knew lots, especially if they were peculiar and largely forgotten. It is, of course, the second day of Christmas. In the UK, this is Boxing Day. No one seems to be quite sure of just what the heck that means, but it seems to have something to do with giving presents and leftovers to your servants. That’s what was in the boxes, apparently. Servants brought boxes to work, too, expecting they’d get filled up in a sort of mid-winter trick or treating.

It was once also the day the official pugilism season began in England. And older still , it’s St. Stephen’s Day, when the wren is lauded as the King of the Birds. And then hunted down and killed, and the tiny corpse paraded from door to door in the snowbound village, soliciting pennies and beer and snacks from your neighbors. It’s one of those odd winter rituals intended to remind the sun he’s supposed to come back eventually, get up off his deathbed and come thaw out the rivers in time for the spring planting, thankee very much.

As Sir Terry Pratchett says, it all comes down to blood on the snow. Red blood, white snow, the frozen sun re-igniting. The Light has come again, and we will all survive.

It’s a day to  survive on the contents of your Christmas boxes. The way Kage packed a stocking, it was usually possible for me to live at least one full day on what she had given me. All major food groups were usually represented; maybe by their most evil and delicious members, but hey – a protein is a protein, right? And shortbread is still a kind of bread …

I’ve actually been asleep for most of today; maybe three hours conscious, all in all. I can’t really pinpoint why, and to be honest – I’ve given up trying. I’m always tired these days, I fall asleep with no reason or warning, and I’m learning finally to just go with the flow. It’s easier on the day after Christmas, though, when I’m already inclined to just drift and eat goodies in my sleep. Sort of like a lightly hibernating marmot.

Fudge. Pumpkin bread (with cranberries; huzzah, vitamins!). There’s bagels beckoning from the kitchen, with good lox and delicatessen creamed cheese – none of your supermarket dairy case schlock. There’s cold roast beef, which in my opinion needs no garnish or side dish anyway. Licorice allsorts, See’s chocolates, sugar cookies with sprinkles, steamed pudding – which can, if you remember your nursery rhymes, be heated up with no harm and happily consumed. Though I’d eat it cold, to be honest.

This is how Kage liked to spend the day after Christmas,  just grazing in our safe winter refuge. When our intellects finally failed, there was always a movie someone had gotten. Or wonderful weird television, as stations ran marathons so their own staff could kick back, too.

And I can always go back to sleep. My body is trying – with some success  – to make up for an entire lifetime’s insomnia. I’m kind of getting to like it, even.

May your own Boxing Days, Leftover Days, St. Stephen’s Days or whatever be as warm and cozy and filled with goodies as mine, Dear Readers. May all your presents be a mere arm’s reach away, may the food in your kitchens be plentiful and easy to nibble, may your loved ones be amenable to cuddling. May your neighbors be satisfied with the wren and not decide to sacrifice you.

We should all be grateful for the comforts we get, right?

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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3 Responses to St. Stephen, Boxing with Wrens. And Turtledoves.

  1. Mary Lynn says:

    Happy Saint Easter Fool’s Day! (my all purpose holiday greeting)


  2. I do not know which of you, Kage or yourself taught the Queen’s English the last year at Blackpoint, and actually am not sure that was the name of the class where funny words and customs were tossed at our imaginations, but nonetheless, whichever of you sisters taught, I loved it!! And loved Kage’s books, tho I didn’t find them until a year before she died. The Empress of Mars and the ones about that family of brats born to the big scarey guy and his Goddess wife are my favorites. Please stop eating sugary stuff, OK? that includes most carbs. That is my helpful nag to you. fruit is ok. real fruit not juice. nag nag nag. hugs too. Heather


  3. Kate says:

    Thanks, Heather. That last year at Blackpoint, both Kage and I taught Language – and she taught a solo Folklore class, and I taught a solo Women’s Lifestyles class, as well. So you could have taken any or all of them – we tried to pack ’em all full of entertaining facts. Truth is stranger than fiction, and usually a lot more fun!


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