Thursday, December 27, 2007

Boxing Day?

Boxing Day (bŏk'sĭng) Date: 1833 n. The first weekday after Christmas, celebrated as a holiday in parts of the British Commonwealth, when Christmas gifts are traditionally given to service workers. I have to admit I've never heard this term before yesterday. I read about it on a few blogs, and thought - what the heck is that? So, like any inquisitive writer, I looked it up. Apparently, Boxing Day is celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada on December 26th or 27th (according to which country), and, it's a tradition that goes waaay back. According to Wikipedia: It was the day when people would give a present or Christmas box to those who had worked for them throughout the year. This is still done in Britain for postmen and paper-boys - though now the 'box' is usually given before Christmas, not after. In feudal times, Christmas was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. After all the Christmas parties on 26 December, the lord of the estate would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would get a box full of such goods the day after Christmas. Under this explanation, there was nothing voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was obliged to supply these goods. Because of the boxes being given out, the day was called Boxing Day. In England many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day. In churches, it was traditional to open the church's donation box on Christmas Day, and the money in the donation box was to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the "box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that lockbox in which the donations were left. Boxing Day was the day when the wren, the king of birds,[3] 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. See Frazer's Golden Bough. Evidence can also be found in Wassail songs such as: ''Where are you going ? said Milder to Malder, ''Oh where are you going ? said Fessel to Foe, ''I'm going to hunt the cutty wren said Milder to Malder, ''I'm going to hunt the cutty wren said John the Rednose. ''And what will you do wi' it ? said Milder to Malder, ''And what will you do wi' it ? said Fessel to Foe, ''I'll put it in a box said Milder to Malder, ''I'll put it in a box said John the Rednose. etc... Because the staff had to work on such an important day as Christmas by serving the master of the house and their family, they were given the following day off. As servants were kept away from their own families to work on a traditional religious holiday and were not able to celebrate Christmas Dinner, the customary benefit was to "box" up the leftover food from Christmas Day and send it away with the servants and their families. (Similarly, as the servants had the 26th off, the owners of the manor may have had to serve themselves pre-prepared, boxed food for that one day.) Hence the "boxing" of food became "Boxing Day".
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • In a similar vein to the United Kingdom (see below), shopping occurs similarly in Australia and New Zealand, although some Australian states, including New South Wales are tightening restrictions on Boxing Day retail trading[1], deferring the post-Christmas sales to December 27. Boxing Day is not formally observed in the Australian state of South Australia, instead what would have been the next working day after Christmas is officially titled Proclamation Day and a public holiday is observed. [9]. However, it is still referred to as Boxing Day.
  • Canada
  • In Canada, Boxing Day is observed as a holiday, except (in some cases) for those in the retail business. Boxing Day and the days immediately following are when many retail stores sell their Christmas and retired model products by holding clearance sales. Some shoppers will line up for hours at night (sometimes before midnight and after midnight on December 26) for retailers to open their doors. Except in Quebec, retailers often open their stores earlier than usual, such as 6 or 7 am. Some retail companies internally refer to the sales week after Christmas as the "thirteenth month." (See Boxing Week.) It is similar to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, in the United States. Boxing Day 2005 was the single largest economic transaction day ever in the history of Canadian commerce (according to Visa). Individual big box stores can even gross over CAD$1,000,000 on one single Boxing Day.
  • As an exception, most retail stores are not permitted to open on Boxing Day in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, or Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2006, Nova Scotia eliminated a similar ban on Boxing Day openings, although most retailers elected to continue past practice and remain closed that day. In these provinces, most stores offer the same specials on December 27 that they would offer elsewhere on the 26th. This distinction is not well known in central and western Canada.[10]
  • In addition to the retail aspect of the holiday, Boxing Day also serves as a second day for families to gather for dinner and to exchange gifts. Boxing Day dinner is, in many ways, just as much a part of many families traditions as Christmas dinner itself.
  • Boxing Day has also been referred to as the day that people "box" up their Christmas decorations and put them away until next year.
  • European countries
  • Boxing Day is a holiday of peculiarly British origin, but in most years it falls on the same day as the Feast of St. Stephen (St. Stephen's Day - 26 December).
  • See December 26#Holidays and observances
  • South Africa
  • In South Africa, Boxing Day is known in the official calendar as Day of Goodwill.
  • Ireland
  • In Irish it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofán or Lá an Dreoilín — the latter translates literally as another English name used, the Day of the Wren or Wren's Day. When used in this context, 'wren' is often pronounced 'ran'. This name alludes to several legends, including those found in Ireland linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. In parts of Ireland persons carrying either an effigy of a wren, or an actual caged wren, travel from house to house playing music, singing and dancing. Depending on which region of the country, they are called Wrenboys, Mummers or Strawboys. A Mummer's Festival is held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, County Galway, Co. Galway. St Stephen's Day is also a popular day for visiting family members. A popular rhyme, known to many Irish children and sung at each house visited by the mummers goes as follows:
  • The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze, Up with the kettle and down with the pan, Give us some money to bury the wren.
  • Wales
  • St. Stephen's Day in Wales is known as Gŵyl San Steffan. Ancient Welsh custom, discontinued in the 19th century, included bleeding of livestock and "holming" (beating or slashing with holly branches) of late risers and female servants.[1]
  • CataloniaIn Catalonia it is called "Sant Esteve" and is a bank holiday, but not in the whole country of Spain.
Phew, all this, and I never heard of Boxing Day? You'd think I under a rock! Here's a few more versions and countries that observe Boxing Day: Dutch: Tweede Kerstdag French: le jour suivant Noël (jour férié en Grande Bretagne) German: 1. Weihnachtsfeiertag Italian: (il giorno di) Santo Stefano Spanish: día de San Esteban, 26 de diciembre Need some help researching Boxing Day? Kids Turn Central Kirk's Weblog Wikipedia So, how about you. Have you ever heard of Boxing Day?

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