In the 1980’s prior to moving to Tredyffrin, my husband and I lived in Britain. My husband’s employer was the initial reason for our move to London. However, it was during that time that I took the opportunity to work on my Ph.D. thesis at the London School of Economics. As we celebrated each holiday in the United Kingdom, we were often fascinated with the Britain’s interpretation of holidays and their customs. One that was particularly interesting was their day after Christmas holiday — Boxing Day. It seemed to us foreigners that December 26 was far more festive and celebratory than Christmas Day itself; we were always delighted when invited to a British friends home for Boxing Day! Boxing Day is celebrated in Great Britain and in most areas settled by the English (the U.S. is the major exception), including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand
Today, the day after Christmas in most modern cultures of the world is a day spent bargain-hunting through the stores and malls. But what exactly is Boxing Day? It turns out the history of Boxing Day actually has a much more chaitable history. Boxing Day dates back to England when wealthy homeowners would give gifts to their servants and the poor. Boxing Day is a day the higher classes gave gifts to the lower classes. Before or on December 25th people of similar class would exchange gifts to celebrate the Christmas season. Gifts were not exchanged with the lower class until the next day called Boxing Day. It is also known as St. Stephen’s Day.
Why is the holiday called Boxing Day? The holiday is named Boxing Day because the tradition of giving gifts of cash, food, clothing and other goods to the less fortunate were placed into boxes for easier transportation. The goods were distributed based on the family needs and their services to the giver.
Boxing Day officially began in England in the middle of the 19th century under the rule of Queen Victoria. Historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes. It was a day to thank the community for all their effort throughout the years. The maids, drivers and other service workers were thanked with gifts of food, money, clothing, and other goods. Boxing Day also developed as a way to teach the children how they can contribute to society and to understand not all families are able to provide for their families all of the time.
As you go to the mall today to bargain-shop or return that unwanted Christmas present, think about Boxing Day, . . . a day to remember that community matters. I extend a special holiday greeting to my British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealander friends today, “Happy Boxing Day”!