Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy... Boxing Day?

Okay, so for those of us living in (most parts of) the US, "Boxing Day" is pretty much a mystery. For a lot of the rest of the world, it's an official holiday. The origins of this observance are pretty murky. There's some speculation that the beginnings date back to the late Roman/early Christian era, when boxes earmarked for special offerings for the Feast of St. Stephen would turn up outside churches on the day of Stephenmas. (Little lesson I picked up somewhere along the way: The "mas" suffix indicates the feast day of a saint or other celebrated figure -- or deity in the case of Christmas -- by the way.) The European version of the holiday seems to have started in the Middle Ages, and is probably where the tradition as we know it began though. Boxing Day -- the public holiday (or "bank holiday" as they call it in some places) has been segregated from St. Stephen's Day which always falls on December 26. Boxing Day observances vary from country to counntry, but generally speaking fall either on the 26th or the nearest Monday or Tuesday following. (No wonder we don't recognize it here in the States. It's way too complicated for us.)

What doesn't change by jurisdiction is the idea behind the holiday. The specifics may vary, but in general Boxing Day is about taking care of the less fortunate. Not necessarily the huddled masses, but those less well off than ourselves. (I have to wonder why a special day has to be set aside for such, and whether such an observance would even be needed if we looked out for each other a little better, but if this is what it takes...

But it is what it is, and it's a tradition that's endured for centuries. So Happy Boxing Day if you're in one of the multitude of countries that give you an extra day off for it. I guess you'll get... Monday off this year. I think. And if you live here in the States, well... you probably have today off anyway. So make up your own Boxing Day tradition. We can do that, right?

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Tulsa Gentleman said...

I found your comments on Boxing Day interesting and helpful.

magiceye said...

these legends add to the mystical aura of festivals.
the explanation that i had heard was that it is a day when you organize to rid the empty boxes in which you had received your christmas gifts. simplistic and practical reasoning perhaps but one more!