Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Boxing Day is the day after Christmas. It is a UK National Holiday so if December 26 falls on a weekend, the following Monday becomes a holiday. During particularly lucky years, when Christmas falls on a Saturday and Boxing Day falls on Sunday, an instant four-day weekend is created.
What does Boxing Day actually celebrate?
That's a good question, but nobody really knows the answer. There are of course, loads of theories. Here are just a few of the suggested origins of Boxing Day:
- A day for the servants - It may have been a day when the household gave a Christmas Box to people who had worked for them during the year. Or, it may have been the day when the servants, who had to work on Christmas Day, visited their families, carrying boxes of leftover Christmas food, leaving the servantless household to eat box lunches.
- A day for charity - Some say that traditionally, churches opened their alms boxes the day after Christmas and distributed money to the poor on Boxing Day.
- A feudal obligation Some suggest that in the middle ages, the lord of the manor distributed boxes of household goods and tools to his serfs, as was his obligation, on Boxing Day.
However far back the Christmas custom of Boxing Day extends, it was only made a legal holiday in England and Wales in the mid 19th century by Queen Victoria. In Scotland, Boxing Day was not a national holiday until the late 20th century.
How do people celebrate Boxing Day?
Whatever its origins, Boxing Day is distinct from other UK Christmas season celebrations in that it is completely secular, given over to visiting, outdoor activities and shopping - offices may be closed but the shops and malls are busy.
The day is also given over to spectator and participation sports. Contrary to what some people say, Boxing Day is not named for boxing matches. But there are loads of football matches, racing meets and all kinds of major public and private sporting events on the day.
December 26 is also the Feast of St. Stephen. It receives mention in the Christmas song “Good King Wenceslaus.” Here’s the song, sung by the Irish Rovers, with subtitles and illustrations.