OPINION: Perhaps it's a sign of the ever-quickening pace of progress or the influence of the me-now generations, X and Y, but traditions, once the glue of society, seem to come easily unstuck these days.
It's moot whether that is good or bad. The Boxing Day test at the Basin Reserve, for example, has long gone. For every bloke still lamenting its demise, and with it an undeniable excuse to plonk himself down in front of the telly with a box of cold stubbies, there might well be a youngster with a dad more ready to take him or her fishing instead, especially if a new rod was slipped under the tree the day before.
Another tradition with even more relevance to this time of year is the Boxing Day sale - not that it has gone the way of the long-departed cricket test. However, Boxing Day sales do still seem to be slipping towards irrelevance - a victim of a stuttering economy and retailers' desperate need to keep cashflows up and their stock moving.
The post-Christmas sales now begin any time from late November, after the spring sales, the winter warm-ups, the autumn shopping orgies, the Easter extravaganzas and, of course, the previous three-month-long Boxing Day sales.
One large chain store has been offering Christmas stock at half price and popular toddlers' toys at 40 per cent off throughout the past week. Not long ago, that would have been unheard of.
The difficulty for retailers is that every year such practices seem to heighten buyers' expectations that the list price is simply a starting point and, if they aren't prepared to offer a discount, they won't get a sale. Where will it end? In liquidation for some.
Other Boxing Day traditions are no doubt going strong. Unwanted gifts will already be up for auction on Trade Me or exchanged with siblings. Some toys will have been discarded and others broken. Some of the more annoying ones may have been confiscated overnight, never to be seen again.
The fridge will be groaning with leftovers, and there will be plenty of cold-meat sandwiches and stir-fries consumed during the rest of the week, not to mention pavlova, with the cream less palatable by the day and brandy snaps going soggy.
There is another tradition, too, which should give us all heart. The name Boxing Day apparently stems from a tradition dating from the Middle Ages when the rich would give boxes of goodies for servants and tradesmen. We no longer have servants - other than what's covered in marriage vows - and tradesmen these days could buy and sell most of us, such is the demand for their services and the consequent hourly rate we must pay to get them.
However, as Jill Knight, of the Salvation Army, points out, Nelsonians can be a generous lot. The army handed out donated Christmas gifts to 1050 people in Nelson and Motueka at the weekend, many of them left under the The Nelson Mail Christmas tree during the past few weeks. It also distributed 215 hampers to families in need of a seasonal lift.
Among the donations was a $10,000 cheque from a Nelson person who insisted on anonymity. Whatever we might think of our changing world, it is always pleasing to see such fine examples of community spirit.
- The Nelson Mail