Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day in Canada

By Richard K. Barry

As an American in Canada, I remember when I first heard about Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas.  It was new to me, but as familiar to Canadians as any other holiday. Boxing Day is, according to tradition, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box", from their bosses or employers. It's celebrated in a slew of Commonwealth nations including United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago.

In the modern context it is simply a day off during which massive sales take place in retail stores nationwide. Or, as in the ad above, if a day is good, a week is better. 

The one things I do recall upon first hearing of the day is that its precise origins are in dispute. 

The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship in order to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

Whatever. A day off is a day off, so who am I to complain?

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