Boxing Day – Origin of Christmas’ cousin
While half the planet has at least, a vague recollection of the origins of Christmas (or at least their own version of things), the world seems to have gone into collective amnesia on the origins of Boxing Day.
To start by busting one full myth, Boxing Day has absolutely nothing to do with the sport of boxing, so we can tuck that angle away nicely for now.
For our starter, Boxing Day is celebrated in Ireland as St. Stephen’s day, a religious holiday depicting the day St. Stephen was stoned to death for believing in Jesus. I know, you’re thinking, “Where’s the box in that?”…Well, so am I.
So, we move onto the next possible reason – the Christmas box. In Britain, a Christmas ‘box’ is a Christmas present. It has been traditionally recognized since the year 1663, for tradesmen (or servants) to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas in appreciation of their service all year round. The masters/employers would give each servant a box containing gifts, money and even food. Getting closer, are we? Maybe and maybe not.
A lot of European history, however, strongly links Boxing Day to the Advent holiday of the Feast of St. Stephen. On this day, an alms box was placed in the center of the church for the more well to do congregants to give gifts or presents to the needy. The box is broken on Boxing Day and donated to the less privileged. This tradition has followed through over the last century and brings us back to the St. Stephen link.
There are other stories, from the English annual fox hunting (banned around 2005) to the funky Bahamas holiday of Junkanoo, the unchangeable fact is, Boxing Day happens after Christmas and includes attractions like the famous English Premier League fixtures, which are huge in the global football calendar. Boxing Day is also a shopping holiday in Britain, Canada and parts of Australia (like Black Friday in the US). Retail outlets generally agree that it’s a huge day for shopping returns, and reportedly in 2009, an estimated 12 million shoppers appeared on Boxing Day to shop.
While people ponder on the origins of the Christmas’ quieter cousin, and shoppers throng the streets to stretch out their credit limits, one thing should not be lost on us, the common theme of Boxing Day – giving.