Discover the history and traditions of one of the eight official holidays in Great Britain – Boxing Day! A centuries-old tradition of gifts and affordable donations, which has become a modern shopping mania. Celebrate or not – it is up to you. But you must read it!
It is not necessary to be professional in English to know about the importance of Christmas in English-speaking Catholic countries. Toasts in the circle of relatives and friends, the sending of greeting cards and the expectation of the visit of the good old Santa – a million stories have been written and more than a dozen films have been filmed about this. And what do you know about the day after this widely known feast, which comes on December 26 and is considered an official holiday in England and not only? It is time to be enlightened and to join the glorious English holiday!
Questions to Consider:
- The history: traditions come from the Middle Ages;
- Geography of the holiday: from England to Australia;
- Are there similarities between the holiday and boxing or why the holiday is so called;
- What to do on this holiday.
A Tradition from the Middle Ages
Today, the average Briton will perhaps tell you that this feast is no more than one more official day off and the day of returning unnecessary gifts to the stores. We do not like to average and generalize, so we take the microphone from the pessimistic British and return back to a few centuries ago.
Even in pre-Christian Rome, once a year, there was Saturnalia festival during which it was a tradition between slaveholders and slaves to change their roles (social status). This annual act of virtue was a kind of gift to people of low status. At the beginning of the Christian era, it grew into a tradition of collecting donations into special metal boxes outside the church on the feast of St. Stefan.
In the UK, this ritual migrated in the form of traditional acceptance of money or gifts by traders in special "boxes" for good service throughout the year. In addition, there was an old English tradition among the rich to dismiss servants the day after Christmas to their families and reward with a box of food or requisites as gifts.
Geography of the Holiday
Boxing Day is one of eight official public holidays in the UK. If the holiday falls on a Saturday, then the next Monday as a replacement is declared a day off, and if Christmas, then the next Monday (27) and Tuesday (28) December are also regarded festive days.
In Scotland, the holiday acquired the status of an additional day off from 1974 according to the Royal Proclamation on Banking and Financial Operations.
In Ireland, the feast was approved by the law of 1871 in tribute to the memory of St. Stephen. Since the proclamation of the Republic of Ireland in 1920, only Northern Ireland officially continues to use the British name "Boxing Day".
In Australia, the festive date is a public holiday, which is called the Day of Proclamation. Currently, the holiday is popular in Australia only as the first day of cricket matches.
In New Zealand, the discussed holiday is a state weekend, in which all workers receive a higher cash reward. In some provinces of Canada, the described feast is also a day off. As adherents of American English had time to notice, in the USA there is no tradition to celebrate the feast, so do not be surprised that Americans have not even heard of it.
Are There Similarities Between Boxing Day and Boxing?
After a journey through the continents and a historical digression, we return to the question, which certainly is curious for more than one reader. Why BOXING day?
As the legend says, on a holy night a good wizard Santa Claus puts beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree, which children open with excitement and pleasure in the morning. Big family – many packing boxes. From here, probably, the name of the Day of Boxes is.
Let us thank again for the generosity of the parishioners who donated coins to the poor at the entrance to the church before the service on the occasion of St. Stephen's Day. And also let us say frank "thank you" to all people who gave gifts in small boxes to merchants, postmen, butlers, grooms, and other representatives of the serving professions for their work on the day after Christmas.
We express our gratitude to the British government, which in 1871, proclaimed the described holiday as an official one. Since then, all banks, post offices, government agencies are closed. Everyone likes gifts, especially when they are beautifully packaged, and British ministers are no exception,
What to Do on This Day?
The British, Canadians, and Australians are announcing the fight against extra kilograms and go after the lucrative offers to the stores. However, there are those among them who are eager to receive a refund for gifts that did not bring the desired benefit or joy. But they are usually in the minority, and most are storming stores, occupying places in a line from the early morning.
Many shops announce the slump of prices, especially popular are the shops with home appliances. Especially enterprising stores arrange pre-registration for those wishing to make purchases or give out special badges to avoid the crush and long lines. Her majesty "freebie" is popular almost in every corner of the world.
Only in Ireland since 1902 on the Day of St. Stephen, the doors of shops remain closed. After 107 years, some shops went against the tradition and opened their doors to shoppers eager for purchases.
If you do not like general shopping hysteria (or therapy), you can join the fan audience. Football, rugby, horse racing – choose the sport to your taste and root for your favorite team, which either opens the season or takes part in the match with the famous rival. Also, it is traditionally a day of hunting in the UK and the USA, as well as the start of a sailing regatta in Australia. Fans of hockey have the opportunity to cheer for the national team of Canada, participating in the match against the top European team playing the Spengler Cup in Switzerland.
Boxing Day is surely entered in the history of traditional British holidays, passing from generation to generation and becoming new features. It is difficult to imagine a person who does not like gifts and weekends. Therefore, the feast is doomed to a centuries-old history prolonged by the growing British, Canadians, and Australians eagerly unpacking gifts from Santa.