I just found out that, fifty years ago, somebody told me a lie - though I suppose I can't really blame him. Let's face it, when you ask your grandfather a question to which he doesn't know the answer, but he feels he really should (and you are of a suitably gullible age), making up something plausible is probably the typical response.
You know the kind of thing I mean: "Grandpa, why is your face all wrinkly?" "Ah, that's because when I was castaway on a desert island a long time ago, before you were even born, I was captured by natives and their witch doctor cast a spell that shrunk my head, so now the skin doesn't fit properly."
When I was at that gullible age I can remember my grandfather telling me that the day after Christmas was called "Boxing Day" because they always have sport on TV that day. Usually its horse racing, but in those days there was always a boxing match as well. It's only now, some fifty years later, that I decided to look up the real reason; only to discover that it's because, traditionally, people gave boxes of gifts to their tradespeople (such as the baker and butcher that delivered every week) as a reward for services rendered during the year.
What originally prompted this investigation was the weird occurrence of Boxing Day not being the day after Christmas Day this time. In fact, Christmas day falling on a Sunday in 2011 certainly seems to have confused the calendar manufacturers as well as me. The little square for 26th December on my wall calendar says "Christmas Day observed", and "Boxing Day observed" for 27th December.
At first I wondered if they meant "to be observed", or whether they'd done a "Back to the Future" thing and been to see what people actually celebrated and then reported back. But reading the small print, it seems that the above is not true for New Zealand. Maybe, as they're amongst the first to see the sunrise, they get to choose what day it is.
Though why Scotland decided that they'd also have "Boxing Day" on the 26th December, and then follow it with "Christmas Day observed" on 27th December, seems very strange; especially if you live somewhere like Berwick upon Tweed in the far North of England. Imagine hosting a party on Boxing Day for your friends both sides of the border - you'd end up having two parties on different days.
But delving deeper reveals that the calendar is printed by a German publisher, and it identifies the 25th and 26th of December simply as being the first and second days of the two-day celebration named Weihnachten. And the 27th is just an ordinary day in Germany it seems, not even a holiday. What a wonderfully organized approach. And a good excuse next year for having a Weihnachten party that lasts two days, so it won't matter which day people arrive.
Mind you, in little letters at the bottom of the back page is says that the printer "cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies". I suppose it's not like you'd buy a calendar and actually expect it to always show the correct days of each month. Maybe they are just covering themselves against claims from irate people who turned up at a party on the wrong day.
And it doesn't even have the usual "Although we go to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of the information we provide..." disclaimer. Like the printer just took for granted there'll be a full moon three weeks on Wednesday, or made an assumption that August 15th is Assumption Day, or took a wild guess at when October starts.
Of course 2012 is a leap year, and so you can look forward to having to work an extra day to earn your annual crust. Though I suppose it only makes up for the lack of productivity because we had an extra day's holiday at Christmas...