Celebrating Boxing Day

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Today is Boxing Day, as I learned it, traditionally the day when the poor and needy received “Christmas boxes” filled with money and gifts.  But looking further into the history of the British holiday I found several theories on how the name came about.  There was LOTS of information out there but the two post below provided the best information. What do you think?:

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Gifts from Aristocrats

  • One theory regarding Boxing Day involved gifts from aristocrats in the early  19th century. Traditionally the aristocrats gave gifts placed in boxes to  workers and servants on the day after Christmas. It was similar to a worker  receiving a Christmas bonus. The workers and servants who worked for the  aristocrats took the presents home and celebrated a second Christmas. Boxing Day  received its name because the gifts were placed in boxes according to this  theory. Eventually, other people besides aristocrats gave presents to workers,  employees and people who provided a service, such as door attendants, postal  carriers and hair stylists.

King Wenceslas

  • Another theory of the origin of Boxing Day deals with the Christmas carol  “Good King Wenceslas.” King Wenceslas, the Duke of Bohemia in the early 10th  century, saw a poor man collect wood in the snow, while he looked over his land  on St. Stephen’s Day on December 26, according to the song. The Duke of Bohemia  became sympathetic and packed extra food and refreshments to give to the  peasants in the region. King Wenceslas went door to door offering packages in  boxes to the English poor on December 26.

Church of England

  • The Anglican parishes of the Church of England set up a box for members of  the church to donate money during Advent. Every year on the day after Christmas,  the parishes removed the boxes and donated the contents to the poor people in  the community. This is another theory of the origin of Boxing Day since the  parishes collected donations in alms boxes. Alms boxes consisted of earthenware  material, a type of ceramic. Additionally, placing gifts in church alms boxes  dates back to medieval times.

Protection of Ships

  • Ships used Christmas boxes to represent good luck when setting sail during  the Age of Exploration. This Boxing Day theory involves a priest placing a small  box on every ship while the ship sat in the port. Crew members who wanted to  guarantee a safe journey would place money inside the box. The box remained on  the ship for the entire trip. When the ship returned to the port, the  crewmembers gave the box back to the priest for saying a prayer for a safe  return. Priests kept the boxes from the ships closed until Christmas when the  priests opened the boxes to give the contents to the  poor.

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Why is it Called Boxing Day:

Arguments abound on the origins of the name Boxing Day.

  • A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present.
  • Boxing Day was a day off for servants and when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.
  • A box to collect money for the poor was placed in Churches on Christmas day then opened the next day.
  • Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck.If the voyage were a success the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents given to the poor.

Activities on Boxing Day:

Boxing Day is a time to spend with family or friends, usually those not seen on Christmas Day itself.
In recent times the day has become synonymous with sport. Horse racing is particularly popular  with meets all over the country. Many top football teams also play on Boxing Day.
Boxing Day is also a time when the British show their true eccentricity taking part in all kinds of silly activities like swimming the English Channel – not the warmest place on December 26th – fun runs and charity events.

Activities on Boxing Day – Fox Hunting:

Until 2004, Boxing Day hunts were a traditional part of Boxing Day but the ban on fox hunting has put an end to the hunt in its traditional sense.  Hunters will still gather dressed resplendently in red hunting coats to the sound of the hunting horn but it is now forbidden in law to chase the fox with dogs, so the dogs now follow artificially laid trails.

The New Boxing Day Sport – Shopping:

Another ‘sport’ to emerge in recent years is shopping. Sadly what was once a day of relaxation and family time sees the start of the sales. Sales used to start in January post-New Year but the desire to grab a bargain and for shops to off-load stock means many now start on Boxing Day.

Boxing Day in Ireland:

In Ireland, Boxing Day  is known as “St Stephen’s Day” and is famous for its “Wren Boys”.  St Stephen was killed, purportedly stoned to death, for believing in Jesus.  In Ireland the Wren Boys would go out and stone Wrens to death then with blackened faces, carry their catch around the town knocking at doors and asking for money.  This barbaric act has now stopped but the Wrens Boys will still dress up and parade around time though, but collecting money for charity.

Food and Drink on Boxing Day:

With guests often popping in for a snack and quick drink, the food and drink on Boxing Day is more relaxed than Christmas Day. Lunch will usually be a buffet or leftovers from Christmas lunch. Baked Ham is a popular Boxing Day meat and of course, Mince Pies  with Brandy Butter or a slice of Christmas Cake  are almost obligatory.

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