Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day – It Has Nothing to Do With Muhammad Ali

A lot of you have probably heard the term “Boxing Day” at least once in your life just like millions of people across the globe. But since you don’t celebrate Boxing Day, it is likely that you never bothered to find out what it was all about. Now you can find out what Boxing Day is and what happens during this holiday.

At the heels of December 25’s Christmas celebration is Boxing Day. It’s a holiday celebrated in countries like Britain and Canada. Boxing Day has evolved into an extra day for families and friends to spend more quality time together. For retailers in countries where it is observed, it’s like Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving Day, in the United States. Almost everything goes on sale much to the shoppers’ delight.

Countries that recognize Boxing Day

The United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales), Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, Fiji, Cook Islands, Greenland, Denmark, British Virgin Islands, Finland, Greece, and Hungary are some of the countries that observe Boxing Day. Apart from these countries, several Commonwealth countries and protectorates also celebrate Boxing Day. 

In Ireland, instead of Boxing Day, they celebrate St. Stephen’s Day, which is a religious holiday. Since 1994, in South Africa, the term Day of Goodwill has replaced Boxing Day.

Boxing Day usually falls on December 26. However, since it is a bank/public holiday in a number of places, Boxing Day can at times fall on the 27th or even the 28th of December because Christmas may fall on the weekend. The exact date when Boxing Day is observed depends largely on the national laws of the country that celebrates this holiday. In some countries, Boxing Day is not necessarily a public holiday.

Are pugilists involved?

No, Boxing Day has nothing to do with the sport of boxing. There are actually several theories about the origin of Boxing Day in England. One is that it had something to do with servants getting their day of rest the day after Christmas. Servants go home to their families bringing with them Christmas boxes from their employers. Christmas boxes are equivalent to Christmas presents. In a sense, it’s a Christmas bonus.

Another possible origin of Boxing Day comes from alms given to churches during Christmas day. Boxing Day is connected to the Feast of St. Stephen, which is commemorated the day after the birth of Jesus Christ. In the Roman times, boxes made of metal or clay were placed outside churches for collections connected to the saint’s feast day. The boxes were opened, some say during St. Stephen’s Day, and the monetary collections were given to the poor and needy. The Romans brought this practice to Britain.

No one can say exactly which origin of Boxing Day is accurate. What everyone is sure of, though, is that it has nothing to do with the sport of boxing or the many boxing greats like Muhammad Ali or Manny Pacquiao who have won and lost their fights in the boxing ring. It also has nothing to do with boxing up the decorations after Christmas. Finally, it has nothing to do with throwing away the boxes in which the Christmas gifts were placed.

Presents in boxes

Traditionally, Boxing Day is a day when gifts of money, food or things are given to service people. Employers usually give out gifts in small boxes to their employees. The postman or the newspaper delivery person usually gets gifts from people on their route. Way back in the feudal times, land owners would gather their workers the day after Christmas and give them boxes with items like food, clothes, and practical goods like agricultural tools.

Boxing Day activities and more

As a post Christmas holiday, Boxing Day gives families and friends extra time to be with each other or to see other family and friends who were not part of the celebrations on Christmas Day. People visit each other’s houses or meet up in pubs for drinks to continue the holiday merry-making.

Depending on the country where Boxing Day is celebrated, people watch sports event during this holiday. Horse racing, football games, hockey games, yacht races, running events and other sports are held during Boxing Day. It is possible to catch a boxing match on Boxing Day, too. In Britain, brave souls participate in an unlikely activity, swimming in the cold waters of the English Channel. This bone-chilling activity is not limited to Britain or the English Channel though. Dips into freezing cold waters happen in other places, too.

The English love their fox hunts and for hundreds of years, they used to have yearly fox hunts on Boxing Day. Aristocratic men and women ride their steeds and bring their best hunting dogs out with them in pursuit of the elusive fox. But this tradition has since been curtailed because of the ban on canines killing their prey. People still participate in fox hunts during Boxing Day but the dogs are a given limited role in this hunting activity. Scent trails are now used instead of live game.

For Boxing Day meals, Christmas Day leftovers take center stage. Since this holiday is supposed to be more relaxed, food is not expected to be as grand as what was served the day before. In the UK, Baked Ham, Minced Pies and Christmas Cakes are popular menu items.

Boxing Day is the cousin of Black Friday

Thanksgiving in the United States falls on the fourth Thursday of November. The following day, Friday, is called Black Friday. This day ushers in the start of Christmas shopping. Stores all over the US drop the “SALE” sign while shoppers fall in line outside the shops hoping to be one of the first to grab the great bargains.

In places where Boxing Day is celebrated, retailers also go all out in luring their customers into their establishments. Before, sales used to start after New Year. But things have changed. Retailers hope to rake in profits before the old year waves goodbye. For many merchants, Boxing Day is their biggest revenue day. There are doors that open as early as dawn. Shoppers brave the long lines and patiently wait outside shops. Popular items on this day are electronics. It is not uncommon for retailers to extend Boxing Day into Boxing Week.

Those who don’t want to deal with all the chaos that goes on during Boxing Day sales can shop online. Cyber Boxing Day is popular with netizens who love to do their shopping via the web. Without leaving the comfort of their homes, online shoppers can still get the best deals from retailers that offer drop-dead prices.

Boxing Day used to be about giving to the less fortunate. It started as a holiday that centered on doling out charity and recognizing the efforts of the service people. It has since evolved into a different kind of holiday. Although some of the charitable traditions have remained, Boxing Day in many places is spent with family and friends, going to malls and stores, watching sports and other events and simply relaxing after going through the frenzy of Christmas.


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