A Child’s Logic

A Christmas Day Question: What do we do on Boxing Day Granna?  Today we all had lots of Christmas presents, so do we get lots of boxes tomorrow?

My reply:  No, we do not.  Christmas gifts and the boxes they came in were opened today.  Tomorrow is a special holiday day for everyone in our country, and it just happens to be called Boxing Day.  It’s a day to spend with family and friends and to eat up all the leftovers.

We moved on swiftly to the next subject.  However, I did resolve to establish the origin of the term “Boxing Day”, so I could then explain properly to our inquisitive 4 year old granddaughter.

So, what is Boxing Day?  Firstly it is on the 26th December and has nothing whatsoever to do with fisticuffs aka the sport of boxing.  Its origins are steeped in history and tradition, and here are three possible explanations, all of which are feasible –

  • Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants and the day when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their own families.  ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present.
  • Traditionally, a box to collect money for the poor was placed in churches on Christmas Day and opened the next day to be distributed – on Boxing Day.
  • Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. Were the voyage a success, the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents given to the poor.

I liked all of the above explanations, and will probably quote them all.

So how do we spend Boxing Day?  Over the years, Boxing Day has changed, so that now it’s not solely a day to spend with the family and friends we’ve not seen on Christmas Day.  All sorts of activities take place on the day, especially sporting events such as horse racing, and many top football teams play on Boxing Day.  Boxing Day fox hunts used to be a traditional event until 2004 when it was banned in the UK.  Hunts still gather all over the country on Boxing Day but now only chase artificial trails.

A relatively new Boxing Day “sport” has reared its head in recent years – the activity of sales shopping, involving rushing round overheated shops in your winter coat at a fast rate of knots searching for a bargain buy.  Once found, it then becomes necessary to stand for the next half an hour or so in an extremely long shuffling queue, waiting to pay for the bargain item. The more recent alternative to this madness is to spend all of Boxing Day ignoring your family and friends who have come to visit, instead browsing the internet on the new tablet or mobile phone you received the day before, desperately searching online for a way to spend even more money on things you don’t actually need at knockdown prices.  Pointless, sedentary and very sad in my opinion.

I much prefer the eccentricity of huge numbers of British folk who take part in various silly activities on Boxing Day, like swimming in freezing waters and running for miles over muddy countryside, to raise money for charity, and also just for fun.  If we must forsake our family and friends on Boxing Day, then in my humble midlife view it’s better that we raise a few quid for less fortunate people, rather than spending it on stuff we could quite easily do without.

Boxing Day in our house was a more relaxed affair than Christmas Day.  Lunch was the leftovers and baked ham and Christmas cake.  Teatime found us opening the fridge door and picking at bits.  Later we ate too much chocolate in front of the TV.  And played silly games.  And everyone was happy.

Boxing Day morning, however, the entire family piled into the car to go and visit my elderly mother.  Ironically, our 4 year old had an opportunity to re-live Christmas Day; her impressive parcel and box opening skills were essential in helping great grandma open her Christmas presents.  No matter the actual origins of Boxing Day, for her it’s still all about the presents and the boxes.  I’ll explain Boxing Day to her next year when the question will no doubt come up again.

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