For many years we had two Christmas dinners. One year my father’s brother John and his family would come to us on Christmas Day, and we would go to them on Boxing Day to do the whole thing all over again. The following year it would be vice-versa.
In both houses there were bowls of mandarins and boxes of dates and figs for anyone to tuck into and my aunt’s special touch was a dish of Quality Street on the table.
On Boxing Day morning the whole town would assemble to watch The Meet. It was a colourful affair with the Master of the hunt in his red jacket sipping his stirrup cup and dogs running between the steaming heaps of horse manure. Those were the days before people had any conscience about the inhumane and savage nature of the hunt. Farming people constantly complained about foxes killing their lambs and chicken, so as children, we just enjoyed the pomp and ceremony of The Meet.
It often seemed to be cold on Boxing Day. Several years I remember a sprinkling of snow, which quickly turned to ugly brown slush as most of the population of Bridport stomped up and down through it, trying to keep their feet warm. Talk and laughter steamed from people’s mouths, and gloved hands looked for hankies to blot the constant dripping of red noses. When the hunting horn sounded and horses and riders moved off, many people headed into the pubs. We trooped excitedly home, in anticipation of our second Christmas dinner.
After lunch, some of the family found themselves a comfortable chair while others walked off the feelings of distended stomachs. Then it was time for games and more food, a little concert, more food, and perhaps a bit of a singsong before that last little snack to see us through the night.