What is Boxing Day Really About?
Who celebrates Boxing Day and why?
Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated in the British Commonwealth countries. Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. It is steeped in tradition from the British Isles.
It is a statutory holiday in Canada on the day after Christmas. If that is on a work holiday, an extra day is given. In some Commonwealth countries, Boxing Day is moved to the Monday if it falls on a weekend. It is also St. Stephen’s Day. He was the first Christian to be martyred by stoning after Jesus’ crucifixion.
How was it celebrated?
Traditionally, it was a day to relax with family and friends. In most households, leftovers were eaten or at least meals with minimal preparation to give the cooks a rest after baking and cooking Christmas dinner. Boxing Day open houses were common to accommodate more visiting but still with easy to prepare foods.
Where did Boxing Day Come From?
There are two main theories as to why it is called Boxing Day. The first is that British servants who had to work on Christmas Day making a merry time for the gentry, were given the next day off and received gift boxes on that day. The second theory comes from ancient Rome where boxes with slits in the top were used to collect offerings of coins for the poor. British churches had collection boxes at the back and on the day after Christmas the boxes were open and the coins distributed to the poor.
A Modern Interpretation of Giving
In keeping with the tradition of giving to the poor, many charitable events are still run on Boxing Day. They are often combined with sporting events. As children, we were encouraged to box up toys that we no longer wanted after the new ones we received Christmas Day and give them to charity. Of course this was back when the firefighters spent there waiting time repairing old toys. Now toys must be new to be given to anyone in need.
Boxing Day Wasn’t About Shopping
When I was young, in the fifties and even the sixties, stores were closed on Boxing Day and no one rushed out to exchange gifts when they reopened. It wasn’t polite to exchange your gift unless it was ill-fitting clothing and even then you tried to find the exact same item in your size. We were more careful to give the correct size in the first place. Gifts were also much less commercial and stores gave more time to exchange. The sales did not begin until after New Year’s Day. That is when the Christmas wrap and cards went on sale.
I don’t recall when the idea of sales on Boxing Day began or even when the stores started to stay open. Somewhere along the way the idea of family and friend time and of giving to charity was lost. First it was one day of mad rushes to the huge savings, then it became Boxing Week. This year I was saddened to see one store start Boxing Week sales on December 18.
Do you rush off to the sales? Do you enjoy the full Christmas season in the spirit of giving and loving? Have you become more focused on the getting? Should we put family and friends first or keep the tradition of a charity run or swim in the ocean? Do you still have these kinds of events in your area?