CHARLOTTE, NC, December 5, 2017 – Somewhere along the line, the people of the United Kingdom decided that one day was not enough for Christmas so they added another and called it “Boxing Day.”
While it should be obvious, just to set the record straight, Boxing Day has nothing to do with fisticuffs or pugilism. With that out of the way, what then is Boxing Day?
December 26 – Boxing Day
Though it is relatively unknown in the United States, Boxing Day is a national bank holiday that occurs the day after Christmas in many countries with British heritage. Steeped in tradition, Boxing Day has a rich history, not the least of which is the derivation of its name.
In the US we give presents, but in Britain, the term for a gift is called typically called a “Christmas Box.” For most British citizens, Christmas was historically a holiday in the United Kingdom, but servants were required to work so families could spend time together during the yuletide season.
Thus Boxing Day became the day when servants were allowed to return to their own families on the day following Christmas with boxes of goodies provided from their employers.
Boxing Day Charity
Another tradition says that money was collected for the poor in boxes during Christmas church services. The boxes were opened the following day and handed out to needy recipients.
Yet another explanation has to do with sailing ships that would depart with a sealed box containing money for good luck. If the voyage was successful, the box would be given to the priest to be opened on Christmas with the contents dispersed to the poor.
Boxing Day Circa 2017
As with so many American traditions, shopping for bargains has become a favorite pastime in the UK. What was once a day for visiting with family and friends, Boxing Day has become the equivalent of Black Friday throughout Great Britain.
Boxing Day has also evolved to include numerous sporting activities such as horse racing and football (soccer) as well as quirky events like swimming in the icy waters of the English Channel.
Until as recently as 2004, fox hunting was a traditional activity for the upper classes. However, the sport was forbidden in 2004. As of 2015 the debate was reopened as to whether it should be allowed once again.
Boxing Day traditions in Great Britain
Typically every country in Great Britain celebrates Boxing Day, but each has its own unique traditions as well. In Ireland, for example, Boxing Day is called “St. Stephen’s Day” to honor a saint who was stoned to death for believing in Jesus Christ.
For many years a group named the “Wren Boys” would dress up and go looking for wrens which they would stone to death before walking the dead birds around town and knocking on doors to beg for money.
Legend has it that the birds represented the stoning of St. Stephen.
In more recent years, bird stoning has ceased, but the Wren Boys continue to dress in costume and parade through town collecting money for various charitable causes.
Christmas Left Overs
Food and drink on Boxing Day usually consist of a sumptuous buffet of items left over from the gala Christmas lunch. Baked ham is the most popular meat item accompanied by mince pies with brandy butter or Christmas cake or sometimes both.
One question frequently asked is why Boxing Day is not typically observed in the United States. The best answer is relatively simple. The earliest settlers were English Anglicans who left their native land in order to separate from the Church of England. Therefore, such practices were frowned upon.
In fact, initially Christmas was not a popular idea among the earliest American settlers.
Today, some areas in Virginia, as well as a few other states, observe the Boxing Day tradition, but for the most part, Americans tend to “think outside the box.”
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up