Boxing Day Events in Houston: Soccer Matches and Christmas Crackers

Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Christmas crackers are a British tradition. Two people pull the brightly-wrapped tube apart to make a cracking noise and find gifts inside; whoever gets the crown is named king or queen for the day.
Across the pond Boxing Day means deep discounts for shoppers, a top-grossing day for stores, and a chance for postal carriers, errand runners and servants to ask for a "Christmas box" of gifts or cash on December 26.

Here in Houston we carry on the tradition of Boxing Day but, as Old Blue Eyes would have crooned, we're doing it our way. From a full day of watching soccer matches in a bar with rabid fans to a sophisticated celebration at Rienzi with Christmas crackers on the lawn, December 26 gives us yet another day to celebrate the season.

click to enlarge
Celebrate the season at Rienzi with English Christmas traditions, warm beverages and holiday music during the third annual Boxing Day event.
Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
From magnificent weddings (William and Kate, Harry and Meghan), royal births and the current "Tudors to Windsors" exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, it feels as if we've been enamored with the Brits for almost a decade. But we're not the only ones. The late philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III — the power couple of last century's bold-faced set — also were Anglophiles. So there's something fitting and poetic about celebrating Boxing Day at Rienzi, their former home, which now serves as the MFAH's house museum for European decorative arts.

"We like to carry on the traditions of the Mastersons. They were very interested in having people over to the house, they loved to entertain," says Stephanie Niemeyer, Rienzi's manager of Learning and Interpretation.

So in addition to breaking open brightly-colored Christmas crackers on the lawn (shown at the top of this page), other English traditions at Rienzi include holiday music, warm beverages, docent-led tours, a chance for little ones to make their own crowns and a presentation about the elaborate boxes found in the home.

The lecture, presented by curatorial assistant Misty Flores, will look at antique ornamental boxes that were constructed from different kinds of precious materials, sometimes using mahogany or gilding. "The artisans in the 1700s or 1800s would have covered them with gold leaf or silver leaf; [the boxes] were meant for precious objects, meant for displaying something pretty," says Niemeyer.

The Garden Club of Houston has been busy decorating the grounds with lights and garland, as well as the interior of the John Staub-designed home. Look for needlework and garden-themed ornaments on the trees.

"It's really special," says Niemeyer. "We hope [the Mastersons] would enjoy these types of programs, happy to know that people are coming to visit."

10 a.m.- 5 p.m. December 26, Rienzi, 1406 Kirby, 713-639-7800,, free to $10.

click to enlarge
Find traditional pub favorites, darts and billiards at The Phoenix on Westheimer, a Montrose area brew pub.
Photo by Vu Truong
Football fans (that's soccer for you Yanks) will be en masse over at The Phoenix on Westheimer, supporting their respective teams beginning as early as 8:45 a.m. Wednesday. The start times are below (CST), plus they're also tuning in to the Fulham vs. Wolves and Southampton vs. West Ham matches. Yes maaaate!

9 a.m., Burnley vs. Everton
9 a.m., Liverpool vs. Newcastle United
9 a.m., Manchester United vs. Huddersfield Town
9 a.m., Tottenham Hotspur vs. AFC Bournemouth
9 a.m., Crystal Palace vs. Cardiff City
9 a.m., Leicester City vs. Manchester City
11:15 a.m., Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Arsenal
1:30 p.m., Watford vs. Chelsea

And if you're a newbie and catch football fever, see how The Phoenix celebrates local clubs by showing as much soccer and European football as they can. Discover area supporter clubs here.

8:45 a.m. December 26, The Phoenix on Westheimer, 1915 Westheimer, 713-526-3100, or