With the build-up and weeks of anticipation that goes into creating a magical and joyful Christmas, Boxing Day feels like a deep exhalation, a sigh of relief.
In the past, this day was associated with the boxing up of gifts and offerings for servants, servicemen and the poor, and more recently with the rush to catch a bargain in the sales or to watch traditional sporting events live or on TV. For those of us lucky enough to be enjoying time off work, there may be social engagements to look forward to this week, visitors who still need to be fed and entertained, or piles of childrens toys waiting to be built.
It can be very easy to occupy the whole of Boxing Day indoors – either doing very little or perhaps too much. But after a day of feasting, it’s the perfect occasion to shake off the cobwebs, dig out the boots, hats and scarves and head out on a winter walk with family, or enjoy some time alone.
Walking with family is a special opportunity for connection, especially if distance means meetings are fleeting. A walk in the local fields, park or by the sea is a chance to swap stories, catch up on life events and affirm connections, especially after the previous years of distance. You may have a canine companion who has also overindulged and will gratefully bound out with you to connect with the world outside.
There is a gentle camaraderie with those you meet on a Boxing Day walk – bumping into old friends or neighbours, exchanging cheery hellos and cursory nods with strangers. A shared feeling of achievement of venturing back out into the world after the celebrations.
Children may be reluctant to leave the warm cocoon of home, so try calling the walk an ‘adventure’ or setting a challenge like a scavenger hunt, collecting materials to create a piece of art once you are home or playing classic games such as ‘I Spy’. Older children or teenagers that like to keep their technology close may be enticed to try geocaching.
If you are met with resistance at the idea of a walk from those at home, a solo walk can be a treasured time for quiet contemplation, to momentarily slow down after the bustle of the previous days. Take the time to walk mindfully, checking in with how you feel and noticing the landscape around you. As much as we love those we choose to spend Christmas with, it can really replenish your energy reserves to take this time for yourself on a Boxing Day walk.
While you walk, take a closer look at the dormant winter world – from the bare and skeletal shape of the trees to the tightly wrapped buds waiting for the warmer spring days to burst into life. Notice patterns and shapes of plants, and watch out for any wildlife – cheeky robins or crafty jackdaws on the look out for food.
December brings unpredictable weather, shifting and changing. If you are lucky, it may be a crisp, blue sky morning with a thin layer of sparkly frost coating the sleeping world, or milder winter drizzle, milky pale sunshine, or an icing sugar dusting of snow. Even if the clouds are hanging heavy and grey and the outside world looks unremarkable, remember that even a short time outside can make you feel renewed and revived after the indulgences of the festive season.
Longer walks call for festive picnics – leftovers sandwiched between thick slices of bread, wedges of dense Christmas cake wrapped in foil and flasks of hot steaming tea or hot chocolate to replenish tired souls.
There is a simple joy in returning home after a walk in winter, of lighting candles, drawing curtains, getting cosy and hunkering down to enjoy that magical pausing of time between Christmas and the incoming New Year.
Three easy Boxing Day walks in the Lake District –
1. Friars Crag and Calfclose Bay, Keswick – A short 3 mile walk along the shoreline of Derwentwater for striking views across the lake to Catbells and the northern fells.
2. Rydal Water and caves – Enjoy the terrace path running alongside the scenic Rydal Water and explore the old slate mine that is now an impressive cave.
3. Tarn Hows – A lovely 2 mile circular walk around a tarn that was once owned by Beatrix Potter with the jagged Langdale Pikes providing an epic background.