What Is Your Favorite Thing to Do on Boxing Day?

Photo credit: http://funmozar.com/the-history-of-boxing-day/

Tis the day after Christmas, and we’re eating our lox, others are celebrating, receiving a Christmas Box, when out of…. What? What’s that you say? You don’t know about Christmas Boxes, or even what the day after Christmas is? Well, to me, as an Old English Sheepdog (emphasis on English), it’s Boxing Day! Yeah, so I want to wish everyone a Happy Boxing Day!! Yippee!! I’m so excited! Where’s my Christmas Box? Oh, there it is. (Yummy – I so love James. He’s stuffed it with delicious treats – all mine!) Oh, yeah, for those new to my blog, I’m James’ loving companion (my breed was mentioned earlier).

Oh, you don’t know what Boxing Day is. Well, you’ve heard of it and have a vague idea of what it might be. No? Okay, so someone told you once and you’ve forgotten or mixed it up with some other day. Then you’ve come to the right place to find out what it has been and what it is today. (Full disclosure, James is not English, so he researched Boxing Day extensively.)

So that you don’t feel like the only one who doesn’t know about Boxing Day, I’ll let you in on a little secret. While we were out walking (we go for a long walk every morning, except when it rains because James doesn’t like rain – you figured it out, no snow yet in Vermont), I told James that the day after Christmas was Boxing Day and that we needed to make preparations. When he asked me what kind of arrangements we needed to make, I told him, once we were back home, the following information of one of the most wonderful days in England’s illustrious history – at least to my way of thinking. And after he heard it, we agreed to share it with you.

No one can definitively say when Boxing Day began. Some believe it is tied to Saint Stephen’s Day, which is also on the 26th of December. This saint is believed to be the first person to die for his belief in Jesus as the son of god. An early tradition of giving to those less fortunate on the day after Christmas began as early as the late Roman era, or during the early Christian times when metal boxes in places of worship were used for such offerings, and then given out on Saint Stephen’s Day.

Continuing into the middle ages, every church in England had a box called an Alms Box. Parishioners would put money into these boxes throughout the year. Then, on the second day after Christmas, the box was opened and shared with the poor. These Alms Boxes are believed to be the precursor (I love it when James uses an exciting word by changing the words I used – I had said roadrunner since they always get there first) to the Christmas Box.

During the age of discovery when English explorers went searching for new lands and the passage to the East, the ships would have onboard a Christmas Box given by a priest. During the voyage, sailors would put money in the box. If they returned safely to England, the Christmas Box was given back to the priest, the sailors thanked god for their safe return, and at Christmas the box was opened and the money inside was shared with the poor.

In the 17th century, the titled, landed gentry of England would put their leftover Christmas food, and sometimes gifts, into boxes and distribute these boxes to their tenants and employees the day after Christmas. In addition, by the 18th century, many people had to work on Christmas, and were usually poorly paid, yet when they would leave to go home to spend the following day with their families, their employers would present them with Christmas Boxes to be opened the day after.

As such, the 26th of December became known as Boxing Day since it was the day many people shared a Christmas Box with the less fortunate. So, as you might have gleaned (James is so clever – oh, I got a treat for that) from this information, it has nothing to do with the sport called boxing, or with the lovely breed of dog called Boxer. (There’s this adorable female Boxer at the kennel where I go, and she is so cuddly …. Hay. I’m talking here. Gosh, James wants me to stay focused. I told him all the above while doing a fairly decent job of staying focused, I should be allowed a little levity here, don’t you think?) Okay, back on topic, if you will.

Today in England, and many other countries, the 26th of December is a bank holiday. If it falls on a Saturday, like it does this year, the banks are closed on the following Monday. The tradition of giving on Boxing Day continues where some people still give little gifts to their local trades people. Those are the bakers, the butchers, and the candlestick makers. (Oh, I got a treat for that one since I remembered. I love it when James gives me treats. Wow! Like Boxing Day, except he does it most days. I love James. Oh, boy, another treat.) It is also the day on which some companies give their employees bonuses, but on the second day after Christmas since no one (sporting and sales personnel exempted) works on the day after.

Members of the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent Hunt depart from Chiddingstone Castle for the annual Boxing Day hunt in south east England
Members of the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent Hunt depart from Chiddingstone Castle for the annual Boxing Day hunt in Chiddingstone, south east England December 26, 2012. A ban imposed seven years ago states that foxes can be killed by a bird of prey or shot but not hunted by dogs. Hunts continue nowadays with pursuers accompanying dogs in chasing down a pre-laid scented trail. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN – Tags: SPORT EQUESTRIANISM SOCIETY) ORG XMIT: LON103                            Photo credit: darkroom.baltimoresun.com

And since the hard working people of England have the day off, what do you think they do? Well, they used to go fox hunting where hounds (some of my best friends are Foxhounds, Harriers and Fox Terriers) chased foxes and men and women on horseback followed the hounds until the fox was cornered. (You can imagine the rest. We have foxes on our property, and I sometimes try to find them, but James always calls me back.) Yet since 2004 foxhunting in England has been outlawed, yet hunters still dress in red hunting coats, and at the sound of the horn, the hounds now trail artificially laid scents. (I have it on the best authority that there is still a debate taking place to reinstate foxhunting – we’ll have to wait and see.)

Photo credit: CharlesFred via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Yet mostly these days Boxing Day is spent by people either watching soccer games or horseracing (a sports day); begining their shopping for New Year’s Eve sales (a shopping day very much like Black Friday); participating in silly activities such as fun runs (see above), charity events, or swimming in the icy cold English Channel (see below) (an eccentric day); or spending the day with family and friends eating up all the Christmas leftovers (a family day).

Photo credit: david anderson : da-photography via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

So, James and I decided that we weren’t going to go shopping, and he’s not a hunter, so my being on the scent of a fox was out of the question. It was warm enough to go swimming in the pond (okay, I took a quick dip, I admit it, but James, well, yes, I’m rolling my eyes), but we didn’t do that or anything else eccentric. We resorted to the original idea of the day and decided to take gifts to someone who, well, we’re going to make sure someone in need has a treat.

We hope you have a wonderful Boxing Day, whichever way you decide to spend it. Of course I’d like to know which is your preference. I always like hearing from you in the comments on my site.

Until next week,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com



Wanted: A Novel, First Name for Mrs. Santa Clause

Photo credit: Stephen Hauser Photography via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Ho, ho, ho!! Tis the season to be jolly! It’s me, Ollie (also rhymes with Holly), James’ Old English Sheepdog, hoping you are having a wonderful holiday season. (Since there were so few comments to last weeks post, James still hasn’t gotten a tree or decorated our house, but I’ve got the Christmas spirit.)

If you’ve been reading my blog each week, you know that James and I go for a long walk every morning. (Unless it’s raining and he, well, let me simply say that I don’t mind the rain.) Well, we got to talking (James does all the talking, in case you were wondering), and he told me that he used to write a letter to Santa Clause every year until he was twenty years young (there he goes again, when I say old, he types young). So I asked him who Santa Clause was. That stopped him in his tracks. He knelt down and, taking my face into both of his hands, he asked me, “Don’t you remember last year? We got you a stocking with your name on it, and one for your friend Higgins, and we hung yours over the fireplace so Santa could fill it with goodies?” When I tilted my head, he got the message – I’d forgotten.

It being a sunny day and unseasonably warm, James sat on the grass. (The dew soaked through his pants and he had two wet spots when he got up, which made me giggle – but I’m getting ahead of myself and James doesn’t want to tell you any more about that.) Anyway, he told me that long ago, this little boy was lost and wondered up to the North Pole. These little people dressed in red and green rescued him. As he grew older and understood what had happened to him, he wanted to make sure that all good little puppies (James said boys and girls, but I knew what he meant) received gifts on a special day (or couple of days, depending upon what you choose to believe).

So, this boy, now a man, found eight female reindeer who could fly, and each year he would deliver gifts made by the little people by dropping through chimneys with a satchel of toys. Then one year after he’d aged and had white hair and beard, a man spied him up on his roof. And ever since he’s been given the name Santa Clause. And then James grew very serious and said, “You know, Santa was pretty much alone up there on the North Pole for most of the time. So one year, when he was caught by a little girl eating the cookies and milk she had left him, he made her promise never to tell anyone she had actually seen him.” Well, with that I tilted my head to the right and then the left and then the right again, I was so excited to know what happened. “Well,” James continued, “she said she could keep a secret and never told anyone. Then some years later there was a knock on Santa’s door. And do you know who it was?” When my eyes expanded as wide as they could, James knew I didn’t know, but that I wanted desperately to know. “It was that little girl all grown up. And she told Santa she was tired of keeping their secret and wanted to be his wife. Well, she became Mrs. Santa Clause!” James told me, throwing his arms up in the air as if he had confetti or snow to play with.

I jumped up and ran around and around, I was so exited. I even jumped up on James, which he doesn’t like at all, but this time he forgave me because he knew I was so happy to have heard this story. After I calmed down, we headed home, and James told me he had written a story – a poem actually – about Mrs. Santa Clause. He’d never done anything with it since it needed an illustrator. When I asked if he would read it to me, he said he would. And when I heard it, I knew we needed to share it with you even without illustrations (besides, I don’t know what illustrations are, so it didn’t matter to me – but James, well, he’d like to get an illustrator for this piece). So, here it is.

Photo credit: Jo Naylor via Visual Hunt / CC BY
                                                     A CHRISTMAS EVE VISITOR

                         As the workroom door opened candy canes swirled inside;
                       every helper knew instantly their favorite person had arrived.
                               The owner of the workshop looked on with a gleam
                               for he knew that this visitor was certainly supreme.

                         She smiled as broadly as her cherry cheeks could achieve, 
                             for she too enjoyed this special time – Christmas Eve.
                           Her hair, like cotton candy, was as white as fresh snow;
                             and her eyes shined true blue like a robin-egg’s glow. 

                                    Her red satin gown was trimmed in white fur
                                     and deposited marshmallows all around her.
                                       She knew all the rhymes and every riddle,
                                she especially knew how to make everyone giggle.

                                      When the carolers sang, who are notorious,
                                        she’d joyfully join in during the chorus.
                             She began lending a hand, first a package for the sled,
                                  which they all could see contained gingerbread.

                                 She knew that each year she had to help prepare,
                               so she cut a ribbon here, and she tied a bow there. 
                                 For this very reason they could deliver the love
                                  that this holiday season is so characteristic of.

                            Suddenly her eyes zoomed left and then whizzed right,
                                     then she rushed to the stairs as if in a fright.
                      For she’d helped review the list of all the good girls and boys,
                           and she knew gifts were amiss off their long list of toys.

                                 She descended each step in glints of silver glitter
                              and was back before anyone could have missed her.
                           Her arms were overflowing with toys for the worktables;
                          so she lowered them and the workers began adding labels.

                               But there was still more to do to care for her crew,
                  for the presents couldn’t go out until there was absolutely no doubt
                         that everyone had eaten, especially little things sweetened,
                        which would ensure they were spry and would be able to fly.

                             So to the kitchen she dashed faster than anyone could,
                                and to the warm oven’s ash she added more wood
                              to heat up her special stew and to warm her porridge
                   that would see everyone through the night’s journey with courage.

                                 She set the eating-places for all her loving faces.
                                    As each ate to his fill all were quiet and still,
                       except reindeer hooves near whose prancing they could hear;
                             they were up on the roof top going hip, hip-pity clop.

                                 The moment had now arrived to bid a fond adieu,
                                    for there was one thing that she surely knew:
                            This night would be remembered by young and by old,
                       for the gifts they would receive as if each were made of gold.

                          Waving a fond farewell, knowing she would see him soon,
                                off flew this great man straight towards the moon.
                                  Smiling she turned to look at the twinkling sky;
                                    then she settled snugly in her bed by-and-by.

                                  And all through the night she could faintly hear
                          sounds of wonder and right: The spreading of great cheer.
                         Of that there can be no doubt, and I can surely say, because
                              the wondrous lady we speak of is Mrs. Santa Clause.

                                 Who was known to say in her own special way,
                                “No matter where in time yourself you might find
                    and no matter what you believe here’s wishing every lad and lass
                        a happy and joyous eve and a very Merry Christmas!”

We hope you liked the story. I asked James what Mrs. Santa Clause’s name is, but he wasn’t sure. So, if you’d like to suggest a name for her, please do so in the comments section of my blog. Or if you know an illustrator who might like to partner with James on this piece, let us know in a comment. Either way, I’d like to hear from you.

Until next week,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
“A Christmas Eve Visitor” poem © 2015 James Stack


That Greedy Time of Year When We Shop Till We Drop

Photo Credit: Castles, Capes & Clones / Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Hydee Ho, Ho and away we go!!! Yes, it’s me, Ollie, James’s Old English Sheepdog. It’s the season to be out and about shopping and spending and making sure your loved ones are well taken care of. (I don’t really know what all that means, but it was something James said while we were out walking, so I’m playing along.)

James was also singing something about making a list and checking it twice to see who was naughty and who was nice (my head was spinning). I had found some freaking good odors and was trying to track them down when he called me back. (Just once I’d like to be able to run free – I’m free, free falling – okay, so that was a song I heard on the radio, but James wasn’t singing it – just my luck.) Anyway, we kept on trekking when James asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Well, not remembering ever having been asked before, I started to make a list. Like James had been singing, I listed some things that were naughty and some that were nice. When I handed it to James, he wadded it up and put it in his pocket. (Okay, full disclosure, I can’t write, so if you’ll play along with us we’d appreciate it – and, drum roll please, James typed that as I was thinking it – he is such a good dude.)

When we got back home from our jaunt (I like that word – I’m so glad James used it.), I ran around trying to figure out how I was supposed to know it was the holiday time of year. There weren’t any decorations or anything being displayed, unlike for Thanksgiving when there were gourds and squash on the table or Halloween when there were pumpkins and the like. So I asked James, in our special communication method, what he was going to do about enlivening the place. Well, James raised his eyebrows and said he wasn’t going to be doing any decorating this year. He told me he was relating to the Grinch who stole Christmas. (Okay, what’s with this Grinch guy in the picture above looking like a green dog? I mean, give me a break, okay?) Besides, he said, he has too much writing to do. Well, I tried to think of what writing I could convince him to postpone, but the only one that came to mind was my blog, what you’re reading, so I didn’t take that topic any further.

And then out of nowhere I said, “Bah! Humbug!” (Of course, it sounded more like, “Wah! Wuhwuh!”) And James laughed. I hope I gave him the idea that at least a little something might be nice. I mean, we need a little Christmas around here. I did begin to remember that last year we had a tree with lights and colored balls and all sorts of things hanging on it, with which things I was not allowed to play. (As a word of warning, if you’re going to hang trinkets on a tree inside your house, then you should know they’re fair game like anything left on the floor – just sayin’.) When I mentioned this to James he said that he had spent all that time last year decorating the tree and the fireplace and the rest of the house for his two nieces and their families who came for Christmas. But no one was expected for the holidays this year. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get him to do a little something – for me at least.

Well, my naughty and nice gift list and wanting some decorations put around the house got James and I thinking about how commercial the holiday season has become. And this put us in mind of one of James’ poems that he wrote a few years back, which he read to me. I started wiggling up a storm (LMAO), so James and I decided we’d share it with you. Here it is for the first time in print for your reading pleasure.

Photo Credit: Kaioshin / Visualhunt / CC BY-NC (Headline removed)
                                                         SHOP TILL YOU DROP

                                                    T’was the day before yesterday
                                                and all through the land
                                           all the people were shopping
                                        not giving a damn

                                The merchandise was categorized
                            especially by price
                        knowing they’d never be given
                    although that would be nice

             The hustle and bustle
         had taken ahold
    who cared what the reason
or even the season

It was one for oneself
    and to hell with the rest
        “what do you think is on sale?”
             “I must have the best!”

                   When some honking was heard
                       up in the sky overhead
                            there were eight tiny geese
                                leaving behind their

                                                          On greed, on avarice, on
                                                               gluttony they did go
                                                                   not giving a care much
                                                                        like all the people below.

We hope you liked the poem. It made me laugh so much, especially when I could see their … falling from…. (What? I can’t say that word in my very own blog? How about BM, or bowel movement, or …. Not that one either? But you can use “t-u-r-d-s” and it’s okay? —- We took a little quiet time and I’m better now – but I can’t believe James is leaving this in MY blog. At least he’s let my feelings be known.)

It’d be super if you could leave a comment telling James what he should do about decorating this holiday season (and that it’s MY blog and I should be able to use the words I want to use). I know I’d like it if you would make a suggestion, and if James will listen to them. If nothing else, I’d sure like to hear from you.

Until next week,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
“Shop Till You Drop” poem © 2015 James Stack


Surviving the Struggle – Becoming a Powerful NaNoWriMo Winner


Hello again! It’s me, Ollie, James’ Old English Sheepdog, hoping you are staying warm and dry – that is if you are in the Northern Hemisphere while reading this – if in the Southern Hemisphere, I hope you are staying cool and dry. (It is so awesome that I have readers around the globe.)

While we were out on our morning walk the other day, James started jabbering about his being a winner in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) by completing at least the first 50,000 words of a novel. I’ve been hearing about it every day during November, so I blew him off and ran ahead. When I came back he was talking about triathlons. As I tilted my head and cocked my ears, James realized I wasn’t making the connection. (I love that James understands me so well.)

He told me that the goal of 50K words can be reached by writing 1,667 words during each of the 30 days during November. (I don’t like math so I took him on his word.) Then he said that when he was doing triathlons, he used to break each segment into sections. For instance, during the 2.4-mile swim he would break it into four pieces of 0.6 miles each, and congratulate himself after each one in order to pump himself up for the next portion. He did the same with the 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run. (I was dog-tired – yeah, we dogs know what that feels like – simply listening to him talk about those distances.) And that is what he said he did during NaNoWriMo – broke it into manageable segments during each day – and if he went beyond that day’s section, he was even more pumped up when he sat down the next morning.

Now I was having a great time listening to him, so when he stopped to make a point I was glad since I was exhausted. Kneeling and taking my face in his hand, James rubbed my head and said, “The most important thing is to get to the starting line. Once you’re there you’ve already won.” Tilting my head again, James said, “Finishing the race is not what’s important. The fact that you are there, trying, doing your best, that is what makes you a winner.” At that I slobbered all over his face, and he fell backwards laughing.

I found this quote from Anna @weezeramb who said it in regards to being burned out while writing during NaNoWriMo that’s it’s okay to take a break and, “Snuggle with your dog (or find someone else’s dog) and just take a breather.” I got lots of snuggles from James during NaNoWriMo. (Actually, James snuggles with me a lot – and I love it – except when my buddies come over to play and he so needs to not do any snuggling. Wow, he wrote that. Maybe he’s getting the message.)

As we made our way home, we discussed which poem of his would be a good one to add to my blog today having to do with this topic. He’s written several that touch on it. So after reviewing them we selected “Iron Age.” We hope you enjoy it.



Reflected in the pulsating window of the subway train
I suddenly see myself, concentrating on the task ahead,
the horn blasts:
        I am skimming the surface, ebb and flow, the brush against flesh,
        absorbed into the vastness, the rhythm, the flow, the drive,
        the pull, the desire, the strain in the arms, the undulation
        of the legs, the eternal repetition - abruptly ending.

Standing at my window watching the ripples of the Hudson River
I am transported to the transition tent where we are changing;
forgetting myself, the time, everything – it overtakes me.
Suddenly I am alone awaiting my re-racked bike having been detained.

The bikes, they confront me as I am carried by taxi into the lower loop
of Central Park round-and-round, dizzying duplication,
I blink:
        I am aerodynamic changing gears from high to low to accelerate
        while descending the many declines, rapid, rushing exhilarating,
        a blur; and from low to high while approaching the multitudes
        of inclines, steep, steady, agony – de-cleat.

Glancing over the expanse towards New Jersey I realize
there is less than half the way to go but it is still a marathon;
with others defeated I realize I must be sturdy, strong, and supple.
for all the preparation I can waste no time.

Tossing and turning, restless in my usually coma induced sleep,
I can sense throughout my entire body that
the end is near:
        I am struggling with each step, striving to make it to the end,
        pumping myself up to not give in to the fear, weakness, loathing,
        anger and pity but to stay focused, resilient and resourceful
        knowing that it will forever be mine – once crossed.

And no one, absolutely no one, can take it from me.

We hope you liked the poem. Oh, and be sure and let me know by leaving us a comment if you did, or if you have any questions for me (or for James).

Until next week,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
“NaNoWriMo Winner” illustration badge courtesy of doe-eyed.com
“Ironman Lake Placid” a registered trademark of World Triathlon Corp (WTC)
“Iron Age” poem © 2015 James Stack