Boxing Day is a strong contender for Britain’s National Day of Lethargy. For some, December 26th is usually a day of quiet meditation on the excesses of the previous afternoon; a day when we celebrate the twin great national pastimes, television repeats and discount shopping. But Boxing Day is so much more than a collective snooze for those of us who get up and out and about. By far and away the best remedy for post-Christmas lassitude is to seize the day and get out and do whatever you enjoy.
For starters, you can drop the Arsenal-Chelsea match on Sky Sports 1 and head out for an altogether more engaging afternoon at the Boxing Day races. Last year the prestigious King George VI Chase at Kempton saw a face-off between reigning champion Kauto Star and the future Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander, and 2010’s instalment should be no less tense. The bookmakers are currently backing Kauto Star odds-on to secure an unprecedented fifth consecutive win. There will also be special meets at Wolverhampton, Wincanton and Down Royal.
Top of the list of quirky annual events in the countryside is the Bibury Duck Race in the Cotswolds. Nobody knows quite how it began, but each year the village’s cricket club arranges a mass race of up to 100 rubber ducks, with proceeds going to the winner’s charity of choice. Not to be outdone in the wackiness stakes, the village of Pagham in West Sussex holds a perennially popular pram race. Competitors tackle a three-mile course featuring three pubs, and drink a pint at each to claim the coveted Christmas pudding reserved for the victor.
Those with a more reflective approach to life need not feel that they have any more excuse to stay in. A new Boxing Day tour promises to bring the characters and locations right out of the pages of Charles Dickens’ books and to set them down in the midwinter shadows of central London. Meeting outside Covent Garden underground station at 2pm, the 90 minute walk will cover what remains of the city Dickens knew, including the lawyers’ haunts and the likeliest candidate for the original Old Curiosity Shop. Tickets can be booked in advance from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unfortunately Boxing Day falls on a Sunday this year, and hunting on a Sunday is not the done thing. But packs will be meeting across the country on Monday 27th for the biggest day in their annual calendar, and newcomers are invariably welcome. Find your local hunt, and prepare for an exhilarating yomp through your local countryside.
Picture credit: John Harwood