For many people, Christmas can be a magical day filled with delight and indulgences. But for those down on their luck or disadvantaged, it can be a time of sorrow and disappointment. That’s why the countries of the British commonwealth have set aside the day after Christmas as Boxing Day, and its purpose was to bring a bit of magic to those who could use it. So what is Boxing Day all about, anyway, apart from being the day after a Christmas and a time when many of us flock to the sales?
Every December 26, going at least as far back as 1833, according to History.com, the United Kingdom and other countries that are part of the British Commonwealth – including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India – have observed Boxing Day as an opportunity to provide some holiday joy to those who most need it.
There are competing stories behind the name Boxing Day. One is that it refers to the giving of “Christmas boxes,” a term that originated in the 17th century to describe gifts, money and other leftovers from Christmas that lords of the manor would give to their servants and employees for having worked on Christmas Day. Basically, Christmas Boxes were holiday bonuses for the working class.
The other is that it refers to the “alms boxes” that would traditionally appear in churches in the weeks leading up to Christmas for the purpose of collecting money from parishioners that clergy members would distribute to those in need after Christmas Day. The day after Christmas is also the feast of St. Stephen, a martyr known for his acts of charity.
The day is still a national holiday in many parts of the British Commonwealth, and while some people still give back to the less fortunate on Boxing Day, it has now become more synonymous with spending up big at a department store.
This year, on December 26, consider observing your own charitable Boxing Day. To borrow from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, your heart just may grow three sizes… instead of your wallet shrinking three sizes!
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