The winter holiday season in the United States is heavily centered around Christmas. True, the other secular and specifically non-Christian holidays are acknowledged, but December 25 is the season’s belle of the ball. Those who own calendars noting English and Canadian holidays will see another notation on December 26: Boxing Day.
What is Boxing Day?
The old English traditions, to the best of my understanding, extend the celebrations near and around Christmas beyond the holy day of the 25th. Christmas day, in the old country, is long regarded as a family and church holiday. The heavily commercialized notion of gift giving does not take the spotlight there as it does in the US. December 25th is set up as a day of prayer and family connection. It more resembles our Thanksgiving than our version of Christmas. Boxing Day is the more secular of the holidays. On Boxing Day, families take whatever they have in abundance (if anything), “box it up,” and deliver it to those less fortunate. It is also tradition for household servants to trade station with their employers, with the maids and butlers being served by their bosses for this one day.
So how can we make Boxing Day an American tradition?
We already have something going, we just haven’t given it the Old English name.
Our December 26th is also used as an opportunity to unburden ourselves of excess. We, however, take less altruistic approach. We take the gifts we already have too many of (or the wrong size, wrong color, or just don’t like), keep them in their boxes, and return them to the store they came from. We don’t, however, just give it away. We expect money or other merchandise in exchange. To make Boxing Day an American tradition, we need not change our practices. Just adopt the title and add the word “SALE.”
That’s not to say we couldn’t take the old example of generosity. While some of us our taking advantage of our favorite retailers return counter, others may wish to make those donations to their favorite church, charity, or thrift store. Got a new coat? Cool! Not planning on wearing your old one anymore? Give it away! No reason to wait until spring. Perhaps this could also be a teaching opportunity for those with less than appreciative children. If your kid didn’t get EVERYTHING he asked Santa to bring, you could always suggest tossing the unacceptable presents in the “Boxing Day Bin” for someone who would be happy to get anything.
For me, I’ve already adorned Boxing Day with my own traditions. With the holiday season over burdened with parties that absolutely HAVE to happen before Christmas, I have my own the day after. It’s a perfect opportunity to re-gift your unwanted stuff in a White Elephant game (once again, adopting the “boxing up” tradition). We also follow the White Elephant with a fund raising auction. This is convenient since many are more than happy to donate the White Elephant prizes to the auction block. The fundraising can be for anything, and can also be spun as being in the spirit of generosity that is as the core of old world Boxing Day.
Give it some thought, friends and neighbors. It won’t take much to make Boxing Day as American as President’s Day.