December 26 = Day after Christmas = Boxing Day — or St. Stephen’s Day, if you’re in Ireland.
“What exactly is Boxing Day?” I’m often asked, whenever I invoke my “Floating Holiday” privilege at work.
“It’s the holiday the day after Christmas,” is my reply.
This is day that we, in the British Commonwealth, take off from work because we need a day to recover from the day before. Always made perfect sense to me.
[I’m not in the British Commonwealth anymore, but I’m still taking the day off, dammit!]
I once tried to explain this holiday to one of my American co-workers. I told him that in the past it was the day when the servants were able to celebrate their Christmas with their own families, as they would have been working on Christmas day. “Servants?” he burst out. His face flushed, he looked terribly embarrassed, and then nervously mumbled something about slaves and “that’s not right!” and quickly excused himself.
Sheesh! I wasn’t telling him I had servants, just what used to happen a couple centuries ago. Heck, my people survived it. We can’t go back and rewrite history.
Boxing Day, historically, was the day when servants and tradesmen would receive “Christmas boxes” from their employers, according to Wikipedia. They also mention that this tradition could have started with the practice of leaving Alms boxes in places of worship to collect donations for the poor. Very well-intended actions, I’m sure.
There is also a connection to the ancient Roman feast of Saturnalia, when masters and slaves would switch roles in a gesture of temporary benevolence at this time of the year.
Fast-forward to today:
December 26 has evolved into the day for exchanging unwanted presents at the store. Then it’s just re-boxing day. You can also get some crazy-discounted new items on sale. After all, the stores are trying to move all the unsold merchandise that they stocked up for the biggest shopping season of the year. Juat another day of seasonal madness at the malls.
Today I’m spending my Boxing Day at home with my family watching English Premier League football (soccer) and Doctor Who on TV, eating cake, and mapping out my diet and exercise plan for 2015.
Happy Boxing Day, y’all! Happy rummaging 🙂