Have yourself a merry little Boxing Day

Best wishes to all on this fine Boxing Day. Boxing Day, Dec. 26, is a traditional holiday in England and its origin leaves most Americans scratching our heads.

It stems primarily from the Middle Ages in England, when servants had to work Christmas Day and so were given the day after off and were given boxed gifts from the master and mistress. According to the undisputed expert on Christmas spirit, Charles Dickens,

Boxing Day was when postmen, errand boys and servants received a Christmas box of contributions from those whom they serve.

If you prefer to check the church calendar, it is also St. Stephen’s Day, celebrating the life of the first Christian martyr, who was apparently stoned to death. It’s always something of a challenge for me to get in a festive mood when studying about martyrs. However, on that day, the priests traditionally opened the alms boxes at the churches and the collections were spent on those in need. That could be any of us after all our pre-Christmas spending. Do you think we could convince the credit card companies to cut us some kind of Boxing Day deal?

Here’s a rather fun game you can play when the relatives run out of things to do or desserts to eat. Before you tell anyone the true definition of Boxing Day, ask those around you what they think it represents.

I traditionally spend the day after Christmas picking up wrapping paper, ribbon and other flotsam and sorting my family’s now-open and deserted gifts into individual cardboard boxes. The name made perfect sense to me, although I might have opted for Clean-Up Day or Sorting Day or No-I-Don’t -Save-Ribbon Day. I then had an even more attractive vision of me crawling under the largest box and sleeping for about 12 hours. Now that’s what I call a Boxing Day.

I asked a 10-year-old girl to define Boxing Day. She decided that it must be the day when those really big boxes that Santa couldn’t get down the chimney arrive.

The 10-year-old boy figured it was a day to use those cool boxing gloves he got for Christmas or maybe just a day to give your best friend, or maybe your sister, a good holiday pummeling.

The teenaged girl had high hopes that it was a day when more boxed presents showed up filled with what you really wanted instead of that lame stuff your parents gave you the day before.

The teenaged boy hoped it might be a day when he could stay in his favorite T-shirt and boxer shorts all day without getting sent back upstairs by his mother to put on a proper pair of pants, thank you very much. If not that, then it must be the day when your mom takes down all the Christmas decorations and makes you carry the boxes back to the attic.

One power-shopper friend insisted it was the day you boxed up all the things you need to return and hit the malls. Another swore it was the day when all calories are rendered harmless and it is safe to eat the boxes and plates of cookies and candy you were given by friends and neighbors before the holiday. Since I am likely to take on roughly the shape of a box when I finish indulging in the host of wonderful, chocolate or butter-laden holiday treats, she might have something there.

I will simply say, have a lovely Boxing Day. Anyone who reads and enjoys my column has already given me the best gift of all.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer and a sucker for post-holiday holidays. Contact her at jgillette@coastnewsgroup.com

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