Tis the day after Christmas, and we’re eating our lox, others are celebrating, receiving a Christmas Box, when out of…. What? What’s that you say? You don’t know about Christmas Boxes, or even what the day after Christmas is? Well, to me, as an Old English Sheepdog (emphasis on English), it’s Boxing Day! Yeah, so I want to wish everyone a Happy Boxing Day!! Yippee!! I’m so excited! Where’s my Christmas Box? Oh, there it is. (Yummy – I so love James. He’s stuffed it with delicious treats – all mine!) Oh, yeah, for those new to my blog, I’m James’ loving companion (my breed was mentioned earlier).
Oh, you don’t know what Boxing Day is. Well, you’ve heard of it and have a vague idea of what it might be. No? Okay, so someone told you once and you’ve forgotten or mixed it up with some other day. Then you’ve come to the right place to find out what it has been and what it is today. (Full disclosure, James is not English, so he researched Boxing Day extensively.)
So that you don’t feel like the only one who doesn’t know about Boxing Day, I’ll let you in on a little secret. While we were out walking (we go for a long walk every morning, except when it rains because James doesn’t like rain – you figured it out, no snow yet in Vermont), I told James that the day after Christmas was Boxing Day and that we needed to make preparations. When he asked me what kind of arrangements we needed to make, I told him, once we were back home, the following information of one of the most wonderful days in England’s illustrious history – at least to my way of thinking. And after he heard it, we agreed to share it with you.
No one can definitively say when Boxing Day began. Some believe it is tied to Saint Stephen’s Day, which is also on the 26th of December. This saint is believed to be the first person to die for his belief in Jesus as the son of god. An early tradition of giving to those less fortunate on the day after Christmas began as early as the late Roman era, or during the early Christian times when metal boxes in places of worship were used for such offerings, and then given out on Saint Stephen’s Day.
Continuing into the middle ages, every church in England had a box called an Alms Box. Parishioners would put money into these boxes throughout the year. Then, on the second day after Christmas, the box was opened and shared with the poor. These Alms Boxes are believed to be the precursor (I love it when James uses an exciting word by changing the words I used – I had said roadrunner since they always get there first) to the Christmas Box.
During the age of discovery when English explorers went searching for new lands and the passage to the East, the ships would have onboard a Christmas Box given by a priest. During the voyage, sailors would put money in the box. If they returned safely to England, the Christmas Box was given back to the priest, the sailors thanked god for their safe return, and at Christmas the box was opened and the money inside was shared with the poor.
In the 17th century, the titled, landed gentry of England would put their leftover Christmas food, and sometimes gifts, into boxes and distribute these boxes to their tenants and employees the day after Christmas. In addition, by the 18th century, many people had to work on Christmas, and were usually poorly paid, yet when they would leave to go home to spend the following day with their families, their employers would present them with Christmas Boxes to be opened the day after.
As such, the 26th of December became known as Boxing Day since it was the day many people shared a Christmas Box with the less fortunate. So, as you might have gleaned (James is so clever – oh, I got a treat for that) from this information, it has nothing to do with the sport called boxing, or with the lovely breed of dog called Boxer. (There’s this adorable female Boxer at the kennel where I go, and she is so cuddly …. Hay. I’m talking here. Gosh, James wants me to stay focused. I told him all the above while doing a fairly decent job of staying focused, I should be allowed a little levity here, don’t you think?) Okay, back on topic, if you will.
Today in England, and many other countries, the 26th of December is a bank holiday. If it falls on a Saturday, like it does this year, the banks are closed on the following Monday. The tradition of giving on Boxing Day continues where some people still give little gifts to their local trades people. Those are the bakers, the butchers, and the candlestick makers. (Oh, I got a treat for that one since I remembered. I love it when James gives me treats. Wow! Like Boxing Day, except he does it most days. I love James. Oh, boy, another treat.) It is also the day on which some companies give their employees bonuses, but on the second day after Christmas since no one (sporting and sales personnel exempted) works on the day after.
And since the hard working people of England have the day off, what do you think they do? Well, they used to go fox hunting where hounds (some of my best friends are Foxhounds, Harriers and Fox Terriers) chased foxes and men and women on horseback followed the hounds until the fox was cornered. (You can imagine the rest. We have foxes on our property, and I sometimes try to find them, but James always calls me back.) Yet since 2004 foxhunting in England has been outlawed, yet hunters still dress in red hunting coats, and at the sound of the horn, the hounds now trail artificially laid scents. (I have it on the best authority that there is still a debate taking place to reinstate foxhunting – we’ll have to wait and see.)
Yet mostly these days Boxing Day is spent by people either watching soccer games or horseracing (a sports day); begining their shopping for New Year’s Eve sales (a shopping day very much like Black Friday); participating in silly activities such as fun runs (see above), charity events, or swimming in the icy cold English Channel (see below) (an eccentric day); or spending the day with family and friends eating up all the Christmas leftovers (a family day).
So, James and I decided that we weren’t going to go shopping, and he’s not a hunter, so my being on the scent of a fox was out of the question. It was warm enough to go swimming in the pond (okay, I took a quick dip, I admit it, but James, well, yes, I’m rolling my eyes), but we didn’t do that or anything else eccentric. We resorted to the original idea of the day and decided to take gifts to someone who, well, we’re going to make sure someone in need has a treat.
We hope you have a wonderful Boxing Day, whichever way you decide to spend it. Of course I’d like to know which is your preference. I always like hearing from you in the comments on my site.
Until next week,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)
Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com