Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

This is one of two non-religious holidays celebrated today.

Boxing Day is a public holiday celebrated in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia on December 26 (or the next week day after Christmas). Boxing Day is the practice of giving of gifts to employees, the poor, or to people in a lower social class and dates back to the Middle Ages.

The Oxford English Dictionary attributes the name of the holiday it to the Christmas box; the verb box meaning: "To give a Christmas-box (colloq.); hence boxing-day." However, there are a bunch of theories as to the name's origin, including:

  • It was the day when people would give a present or boxing box to those who had worked for them throughout the year.

  • In feudal times, serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord for the seasonal celebration. This made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends. The day after Christmas, the lord of the estate would give a box of practical goods (cloth, grains, tools, etc.) to each family who lived on his land. This was not voluntary gift, but an obligation of the lord to provide these supplies.

  • Many years ago in England it was common practice for servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for work the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts.

  • In churches, it was traditional to open the donation box on Christmas Day and distribute the money to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day.

  • Boxing Day was the day when the wren, the king of birds, was captured and put in a box and introduced to each household in the village, when he would be asked for a successful year and a good harvest.

  • Because staff had to work on Christmas to serve the master of the house and their family, they were given the following day off. Since they were not able to be with their own families and not able to celebrate Christmas Dinner, it was customary to "box" up the leftover food from Christmas Day and send it away with the servants and their families. And since the servants had the day off, the owners of the manor may have had to serve themselves pre-prepared, boxed food for that one day.

  • Similar to above, leftovers and food were boxed up and shipped overseas in times of war to the soldiers of the Commonwealth Nations.



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