Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day!


As long as I can remember, I’ve seen Boxing Day listed on the calendar on December 26th, but never knew what it was or even thought much about it.  Yet I knew about the “Second Christmas Day” observed in parts of Europe, just never made the connection between the two. 

Boxing Day, as it’s called in America, Canada, and Britain, is known as St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland and Christmas II or the Second Christmas Day in some continental European countries.  The day is celebrated as a saint’s feast day, a day of giving to the needy, and, more recently, as a secular, more commercial occasion to shop at stores with huge sales such as Americans do on Black Friday.

The etymology of the term “boxing” to describe this day is not certain.  One possible explanation stems from an old English tradition.  Often the wealthy landowners would give their servants the 26th of December off to visit with their families, and usually gave each servant a box containing gifts, bonuses, and leftover food.  Also, churches sometimes opened their alms boxes and distributed the contents to the poor.

In many countries, such as Germany and Austria, both December 25th and 26th are federal holidays, shops and offices are closed, and families spend time visiting, relaxing, and eating.  Sounds good to me.  Why can’t the U.S. adopt this two-day celebration?

21 comments:

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