As far back as the Middle Ages, people have been concerned about caring for the poor and the practice then was to place an Alms box inside the church to collect donations for them. Some believe that the name Boxing Day was tied to the idea of the Alms box.
In Roman times and at the beginning of the Christian era, metal boxes were placed outside of churches to collect special offerings for the Feast of St. Steven which is also recognized on December 26th.
Records back to 1663 mention the tradition of bosses and employers preparing Christmas boxes for their servants and for tradesmen who were required to work on Christmas Day. Because of this, they were given time off on December 26 so they could be with their families. The Christmas boxes were filled by the wealthy with money, presents and sometimes leftover food as a way of giving thanks for services received throughout the year.
Boxing Day is recognized in several countries in the world. For some it is a bank or public holiday. Some countries look forward to sporting events such as rugby, hunting, hockey, football, or basketball that are scheduled to be played on Boxing Day.
For years Boxing Day has been a time for retail stores to experience record sales because of their discounted pricing. Shoppers often spend hours waiting for doors to open in order to take advantage of drastically marked-down items. I remember as a child that my aunt and uncle would wait until December 26th to do their Christmas shopping because they thought it was silly to pay full price for the same items that would cost a great deal less the following day.
Over the years, many of the things associated with Boxing Day have changed. Those who are in the retail business usually need to hire extra staff to help them serve the crowds that show up looking for bargains. No time off for them.
Legislation also has been inconsistent regarding whether or not December 26 is a bank or statutory holiday. In some areas it is recognized. In others it is not and in still others it is optional.
In modern times, we do not usually associate the day after Christmas with putting out an Alms Box for the poor or a metal box for special offerings. Most of us do not have servants or employees to whom we would give our left overs. Not everyone will sleep on the street outside of a big box store in order to purchase a discounted item and many of us do not consider December 26th as a day for sports.
Tradition is a personal thing that we choose and then honour over and over again.
What will you do on Boxing Day? Will you go to work, spend time doing a clean up from the mess of Christmas Day, have a nap or read a book?
Perhaps this year you will be creative and start a new tradition for Boxing Day!