26 December 2007

Boxing Day: Poor Man's Christmas

So today is Boxing Day. Chances are your calendar says it and you always wonder what the fuck it is. Well, wonder no more.

Boxing Day is a holiday of particularly British origin, but in many other countries worldwide, December 26 is also a holiday under various names.

Boxing Day is celebrated in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Wherever Queen Elizabeth is Queen, it's celebrated and observed.

The tradition actually dates back to the Middle Ages when people would give out gifts to their servants, the poor, and/or to people in a lower social class.

The holiday's name has numerous folk etymologies:

Boxing Day was the day when people would give a present or Christmas box to those who had worked for them throughout the year.

In England many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.

Because the staff had to work on such an important day as Christmas by serving the master of the house and their family, they were given the following day off. As servants were kept away from their own families to work on a traditional religious holiday and were not able to celebrate Christmas Dinner, the customary benefit was to "box" up the leftover food from Christmas Day and send it away with the servants and their families.

Similarly, as the servants had the 26th off, the owners of the manor may have had to serve themselves pre-prepared, boxed microwavable meals for that one day. Hence the "boxing" of food became "Boxing Day".

"Boxing Day" also had to do with the way in which the dogs, commonly now known as boxers, reacted to the donations in the church. If they barked, it was said that the church would receive a great sum of money and the town would have a prosperous New Year. Kinda like Groundhog's Day but with dogs. Got it?

It is tradition in most families to spend the day with other family members as a sort of 'second' Christmas Day, where presents are exchanged, the left-overs of the previous day are eaten or another family meal is prepared in celebration. Great, now I'm starving... in midtown. This sucks!

Boxing Day in the UK is traditionally a day for sporting activity, originally fox hunting, but thats been banned so they just play football and cricket and eat beans.

In South Africa, Boxing Day is known as Day of Goodwill. It is a day on which food, left over from Christmas Day, is 'boxed', (in picnic baskets, bags, cake tins, etc.) and family and friends head to the beach to enjoy these left-overs.

1 comment:

No PC said...

It is also the Feast of St Stephen's Day, and was when "Good King Wenceslas" was out and about giving alms to the poor.

The statue of Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia still adorns Wenceslaus square in Prague.