Happy Boxing Day Everyone!

Bingo celebrating Boxing Day with his family and friends at Bingo Beach. (By Christopher Ali Saheb-Ettaba)

Today is Boxing Day, a traditional holiday which is celebrated by feasting with friends. I don’t know the actual origin of Boxing Day, but I do remember the first time I really celebrated this holiday! It was 1987, Dec 26, in Hong Kong.

I was working at Duddles an upmarket classy restaurant entertainment venue located on Duddle Street, Central Hong Kong. One of the owners, Yens Munk, a famous architect/designer, invited me and my family to a Boxing Day party at his amazing house up on the hill. Houses on the “Hill” in HK are for the really wealthy!

I knew what Boxing Day was, but honestly, but never been to a Boxing Day party, Yen’s, being Danish, had his own style of Boxing Day celebration.

I had just bought a brand new Sony Video camera to make a comedy film “Dr. Penguin, the lost emperor” I brought it along wanting to test it at the party. I wore my usual tuxedo, and brought my top hat and some tricks, I thought I might get some incredible footage of HK with myself on the legendary hill!

It was a bright and crispy day, we arrived, there were many familiar faces, and everyone was in a great festive spirit. Yen’s took us for a tour of his home, which started at his bar, then asked me if I’d ever tried Aquavit? I hadn’t even heard of it, much less ever tried it.

Yen’s explained that it’s a tradition in his village back in Denmark that a first time visitor to his home had to drink a shot of Aquavit upon entering. In fact this bottle was from his village, so I dutifully toasted his home and family, downing my first ever shot of Aquavit.

It had a peppery taste mixed with a whiff of licorice and a kick like vodka. We resumed the tour and he brought me to the upstairs garden where an amazing Danish buffet was laid out, being served by waiters. It was a delicious Danish spread, herring, salmon, all kinds of cheeses, breads, roasted turkey, ham, beef, and so much more.

Yen’s insisted before anyone ate, we all had to have a shot of Aquavit! It slowly dawned on me that Aquavit was part of every tradition in his household! I don’t remember how many shots I had; in fact, I can’t remember much about the party! All I do remember is somehow we took a taxi home, I had unwittingly left my new Sony video camera, my top hat and bag of tricks in the taxi.

We lived in Central on the top floor of the Garvey Building, just off Hollywood Road. Our small apartment had a big balcony, it was almost as big as the apartment! When we got to the 21st floor it dawned on me that I had lost the keys! I am afraid of heights, but when I was a kid, I wasn’t afraid of heights, I jumped off rooftops wearing a cape, but at some point in my life, perhaps after my daughter was born, I suddenly became afraid of heights getting dizzy even approaching a balcony!

So there I was, totally spaced out on Aquavit, the door to our apartment on the 21st floor locked, no keys but I was determined to get inside! I don’t know whose idea it was, but we figured I could just go up to the roof, jump down onto the balcony and open the front door. So I made my way to the roof, found a suitable spot, jumped down to our balcony, pried the sliding door open, and opened the front door to let my wife and daughter in.

It was at this point we realized that we’d forgotten all our stuff in the taxi! Suddenly sobering up, I made a phone call to the Hollywood Road Police department. After 5 minutes of explaining my plight, the very polite officer said “your belongings are here at the station, and the Taxi driver is waiting here for you!”

I rushed down to the police station, it was literally only 5 minutes walking, and arrived to see a very angry taxi driver standing next to a desk with a top hat, Camera case, two bags, one of which contained 2 bottles of Aquavit!

I thanked the driver and the police officers, tried to give the driver reward money, but he refused to take it, instead he berated me in Cantonese for being drunk and told me to be more careful in the future!

So that was my first Boxing Day Danish Aquavit party! It left a lifelong impression on me, I’ve been very wary ever since of Boxing Day parties, Danes with cases of Aquavit and balconies!