Boxing Day

From a Very British Christmas:

Why, America, do (you) not bother with Boxing Day? What’s the rationale there? Is it because you’ve already had a lot of days off, what with Thanksgiving and Christmas Day? Do you not wish to enjoy another day in which you can look over your pile of presents, and then eat leftover turkey and watch another blockbuster movie? Are you that motivated that you have to get straight back to work as soon as is humanly possible?

. . . Boxing Day is also traditionally the first day of the post-Christmas sales. So a sizeable chunk of the population will be standing in a queue, ready to barge older and frailer people out of the way in the quest for a knockdown sofa. And if you don’t fancy shopping, your football or rugby team will oblige with a nice match to watch. That’s what we’re doing. Meanwhile, over in the US you’re, what, taking down the Christmas decorations and hitting the gym? Sheesh! Live a little, willya!

Hey, I want another day off too. In many European countries Boxing Day is considered a second Christmas. However since I live in the States, I am out of luck.  Boxing Day is a recognized holiday in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and other Commonwealth Nations.

Just from reading numerous historical books I knew that it wasn’t a day to get boxes out of the house or to return gifts, as some people seem to think per Snopes.   I always thought of it as a Christmas Day for servants.  But I wondered if that was really true. Time Magazine did an article about Boxing Day in 2009, and I’m going to quote parts of the article:

The best clue to Boxing Day’s origins can be found in the song “Good King Wenceslas.” According to the Christmas carol, Wenceslas, who was Duke of Bohemia in the early 10th century, was surveying his land on St. Stephen’s Day — Dec. 26 — when he saw a poor man gathering wood in the middle of a snowstorm. Moved, the King gathered up surplus food and wine and carried them through the blizzard to the peasant’s door. The alms-giving tradition has always been closely associated with the Christmas season — hence the canned-food drives and Salvation Army Santas that pepper our neighborhoods during the winter — but King Wenceslas’ good deed came the day after Christmas, when the English poor received most of their charity.

King Wenceslas didn’t start Boxing Day, but the Church of England might have. During Advent, Anglican parishes displayed a box into which churchgoers put their monetary donations. On the day after Christmas, the boxes were broken open and their contents distributed among the poor, thus giving rise to the term Boxing Day. Maybe.

But wait: there’s another possible story about the holiday’s origin. The day after Christmas was also the traditional day on which the aristocracy distributed presents (boxes) to servants and employees — a sort of institutionalized Christmas-bonus party. The servants returned home, opened their boxes and had a second Christmas on what became known as Boxing Day.

So what is Boxing Day now? Wikipedia has plenty of information. Boxing Day is a Bank or Public Holiday that can be the 26th, or it can be the first or second weekday after Christmas Day.  If Boxing Day falls on a Saturday then it is moved to Monday.  If Christmas falls on a Saturday and Boxing Day on a Sunday, then Boxing Day is on a Tuesday except in Ireland.  In Ireland it is called the feast day of St. Stephen’s but the day is celebrated only on an alternate day in Northern Ireland. And in Canada it is considered an alternate Holiday, and only Ontario recognizes it is as a statutory holiday. Huh?

So what do people do on Boxing Day?   Like the introductory paragraph stated, it looks like it is a big shopping day, like our day after Thanksgiving.  And of course watching sports plays a big part in the day for many.  Some people visit one set of family on Christmas, and then the other set on Boxing Day.  That would be nice wouldn’t it?  Two days of Christmas – one with his family and one with yours.  Two days of gift giving?  I could get into that.  And I am more than willing to do my part for the economy and go shopping.  Let’s hear it for Boxing Day.

I don’t know if this song is popular in Canada or Australia, however I read that it is in U.K. - even though it looks like it is from 1973? Giving a shout out to all our readers that do celebrate Boxing Day.

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–Leigh AAR

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11 Responses to “Boxing Day”

  1. maggie b. says:

    I don’t celebrate Boxing day. But I do give Christmas bonuses to my hair dresser, bake, and do other things for the people who do services for me throughout the year. I tend to do it before Christmas so that any movie received can help alleviate the strain of the holiday.

  2. LeeB. says:

    When I was very young, I actually thought Boxing Day had something to do with the sport. LOL!

    I know the United States imported a lot of traditions from the UK but dang it, why wasn’t Boxing Day included??!?!

  3. Jean Wan says:

    I love Boxing Day. In Ontario, it is a statutory holiday, but it’s kind of an optional one, since retailers do open. However, people who work on stat holidays get 1.5 times the pay – hurray.

  4. My heart goes out to those in Chardon, Ohio

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