December offers a rich line of holidays including the Winter Solstice, Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, Hanukah, and the American-inspired Kwanzaa Celebration. Among the days not generally observed in the U.S. is Boxing Day, otherwise known as St. Stephen’s Day.
The English Boxing Day, on December 26, is a time to open one’s Christmas “box” and share with others. The custom is rooted in the gift giving to those considered less fortunate—for the working people serving families celebrating the holiday. Many English working people were required to work on Christmas day, and could only celebrate the holiday with their own families on December 26. The families they served would box up their leftovers and some gifts and what not, sending their employees on their way. Today, the holiday is expressed in tips and gifts given to those in the “trades,” such as drivers, milkmen, newspaper deliverers and what not.
Boxing Day also saw churches offering “alms to the poor.” Worshipers would offer gifts to the less fortunate which would then be shared. Even today, children in England and other commonwealth countries will gather gifts for others and ship them off, honoring the Christmas spirit of charity and desire to help others as expressed on Boxing Day.
This, it seems is a much needed coda to a sometimes overly-indulgent season of holiday shopping and consumption!