Christmas has come and gone, but in some countries, the holiday is far from over. Yes, dear readers, December 26 is boxing day, which for Americans is the day we recover from the hangover of eggs and the exchange of gifts, but for other parts of the world it is a holiday in itself.
What is boxing day?
Boxing Day, which always falls December 26 is observed as an official public holiday in the United Kingdom and many European countries, as well as in former British colonies such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, among others. America has decided that, like the metric system and the additional U’s in some words, we will not embrace this special tradition. When the boxing day falls on a weekend, the countries that observe it designate the following months as a holiday.
The origin stories about the holiday are mixed: some say the name comes from the British aristocracy’s custom of giving gifts to servants the day after Christmas, once their own holiday was over and the employees downstairs were finally able to take time off. Another popular suggestion is that it emerged from the tradition of making charitable donations during the Christmas season, in which people would donate boxes of food and other items. the supply of the less fortunate and the churches would set up donation boxes for collection for the poor.
Another theory focuses on the duke of Bohemia in the tenth century: According to the story, the duke was exploring his land the day after Christmas, when he noticed a poor man trying to gather firewood in a blizzard. Moved, the duke went to the man’s house with a box of food, wine and other objects – such a noble deed, it was immortalized in the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslaus”.
But boxing day is not the only name for December 26th. Some countries call it St. Stephen’s Day, in honor of a deacon who became the first Christian martyr when he was stoned to death in 36 AD. In Ireland, it is sometimes called Wren’s Day, which was marked by the enchanting tradition of hunting and killing a small bird, tying it to a pole and then walking door to door singing “Wren’s Song”. (Fortunately, this is no longer something people do.) South Africa renamed the 1994 “Goodwill Day” holiday to “break ties with a colonial past,” according to Cape Town Magazine. And some countries, including Poland and the Netherlands, avoid agitation and call it “the day after Christmas.”
How Boxing Day is celebrated
Like the countries that observe the holiday, the ways in which people celebrate Boxing Day are rich and varied, as shown by this extremely formal and scientific survey on Facebook:
Some people choose to mark the occasion with heavy drinks on St. Patrick’s Day, another holiday that has been somewhat co-opted by our basic instincts.
December 26 has become, like Thanksgiving in America, an important day for sports. As Vice explained in 2014:
Of the 92 fully professional teams in the English Football League, there are 46 live matches. Even in the Conference, the fifth and sixth level of England, where many teams are semi-pro, every club is at it. In the southern hemisphere, things are just as festive and just as sporty. Melbourne Cricket Ground, the famous 160-year-old cricket temple, is full: Australia faces India in the annual Boxing Day Test. Similar matches, in addition to countless other sporting events, take place in New Zealand and South Africa.
And, yes, there were significant boxing matches on boxing day.
However, a common denominator is that many countries have taken a holiday that is said to have its roots in charitable giving and turned it into a smorgasbord of excess trade. Indeed, Boxing Day is now a major shopping event for many countries that respect the holiday; it looks like Black Friday, except after Christmas instead of Thanksgiving. (This seems particularly bizarre when you notice that Britain and Canada also recognize Black Friday on the same day as the United States, despite celebrating Thanksgiving on a totally different month or not at all.)
The exercise is more or less the same: stores offer big discounts, and people spend hours waiting for the chance to 1) buy all the things they didn’t get in their Christmas transport and 2) get rid of the responsible family members for such a purchase of quality gifts.
However, the wave may return to the first day of shopping, at least in some places: a 2018 survey by the Retail Council of Canada found that 40% of Canadians intended to take advantage of Black Friday sales, as opposed to just 25%. for Boxing Day.
For more on the glories of Boxing Day commercialism, check out the following British Columbia comedy loading magazine LoadingReadyRun, in which a man and a puppet discuss the “true meaning of Boxing Day” with a rather disturbing children’s book:
Boxing Day in pop culture
Although not nearly on the same level as Christmas or even Thanksgiving, Boxing Day gets its pop cultural representation. There is a 2012 British film called Boxing Day this is based roughly on a short story by Leo Tolstoy; there is also a very uplifting 2007 film of the same name about an alcoholic father with a terrible secret trying to reunite his family.
The 10th season of MASH presented an episode entitled “It was the day after Christmas”, which sees British soldiers giving 4077th the idea of following the “tradition of Boxing Day”, having officers and members of the service to change their position and responsibilities for that day.
There’s also this little cheer from 2012 by Blink-182 about a guy whose girlfriend throws him the day after Christmas:
Boxing Day sounds great, but I’m American – can I still attend?
For most of the year, December 26 returned to business as usual in the United States. If you happen to have a day off, you will probably be able to find some post-Christmas offers, and drinks at home are practically technical on any day of the year (as this year made very clear).
Alternatively, you could cook your own Boxing Day holiday. The BBC has put together a menu of vaguely unsettling recipes for boxing day brunch, including Christmas cake soufflés, cream cheese fondue and “ham salad and watercress with clementine sauce” – plus a few dishes that involve minced meat, which, if you are unfamiliar, is made from minced fruit and spices and is used to repair buildings in war-torn countries.
Sausage rolls are another traditional Boxing Day dish in the UK, as a much-ridiculed 2015 New York Times article pointed out.
@nytimes they’ll scream for our cute mop, the Beatles, at the next thing you know
– ((((Richard Lander))) (@richardlander) November 6, 2015
In a difficult year for everyone, this December 26 could be a chance to return to the roots of Boxing Day and help those in need with a meaningful gift. And if nothing else, you might just choose to celebrate the “holiday” in the American way: by unpleasantly watching something holiday-themed while scarfing a plate of leftovers.