Boxing Day

I’m not sure if they actually refer to Boxing Day as a holiday in England.  I had heard of it, but before I actually started going over and had friends I could discuss these things with, I thought Boxing Day was the day you boxed up your Christmas decorations.  It has a far loftier history than that.

Boxing day was traditionally a day when servants and tradesmen would receive boxes of gifts from their employers.  The gifts were known as a “Christmas Box”.  From Wikipedia I learned that, “The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations of the term as being from England in the 1830s, defining it as ‘the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box’.”

This custom was started as a tradition because in older days the servants were expected to work on Christmas serving their masters.  In consequence, a good master would give the servants the day after Christmas to be with their families.  Today, at least here in America if you work any national holiday, you expect to be paid a lot extra, time and a half is the standard.

Thinking about the tradesmen who are given small gifts for a job well done all year, what if you are say the postman?  If you had a hundred houses that you delivered to, the take would be huge.  Even if only half of the customers gave you a gift, you’d be carting home fifty small gifts, nice!

From : Celtic myth had it that the robin that was suppose to represent the New Year, killed the wren which represented the Old Year during this time. Wren Boys blacken their faces and go from house to house asking for money to bury the wren. The money they collect is used to buy food and drink for the “wren dance” held on this night.

Sometimes called St Stephen’s Day or the Feast of St Stephen,  a Catholic holiday,  which honors the first Christian martyr who was stoned to death!  I couldn’t really find any reference to an actual feast, so I’m not sure what that’s about.

These days, Boxing Day has become a huge sale day for retailers, much like America’s Black Friday.  It’s also become a big day for sports, with a full program of football and rugby matches.  Sounds like the perfect day for married couples!





2 thoughts on “Boxing Day

  1. You know more about Boxing Day than I do Linda! Well researched! All I can say about it, is that it is a bank holiday here in England and is pretty much celebrated as another Christmas Day, at least, it was in our family. Different families have their own traditions. You remember Aunty Phyllis Gravett who made the tea at the gatherings? Her family always went to a pantomime on Boxing Day. We just slobbed around playing with our new toys and ate the rest of the turkey with much the same trimmings as Christmas Day. It varies from family to family. Some have cold turkey and pickles. But it is another holiday, whereby if one worked, they would get double or even triple pay in some cases. It is only very recently that shops have been open on Boxing Day, to start the Sales. Maybe in London or the big towns they were open, but definitely not around here, when I was a child anyway. It was dead, dead, dead. We weren’t even allowed out to play on Christmas and Boxing days, and if we had an outdoor toy, we had to wait ’til after Christmas was over to play on it.

    FEAST OF STEPHEN. You will LUUUUURVE this. Ever heard the carol, Good King Wenceslas? I have transposed the lyrics and history below. It is the only song or carol I know that actually mentions the feast of Stephen.

    For the historical figure, see Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia.

    Good King Wenceslas, illustrated in Christmas Carols, New and Old
    “Good King Wenceslas” is a popular Christmas carol that tells a story of a king braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26, the day after Christmas). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935).

    In 1853, English hymnwriter John Mason Neale wrote the “Wenceslas” lyrics, in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore, and the carol first appeared in Carols for Christmas-Tide, 1853.[1][2] Neale’s lyrics were set to the melody of a 13th-century spring carol “Tempus adest floridum” (“The time is near for flowering”) first published in the 1582 Finnish song collection Piae Cantiones


    Good King Wenceslas looked out
    on the feast of Stephen,
    when the snow lay round about,
    deep and crisp and even.
    Brightly shown the moon that night,
    though the frost was cruel,
    when a poor man came in sight,
    gathering winter fuel.

    Hither, page, and stand by me.
    If thou know it telling:
    yonder peasant, who is he?
    Where and what his dwelling?
    Sire, he lives a good league hence,
    underneath the mountain,
    right against the forest fence
    by Saint Agnes fountain.

    Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.
    Bring me pine logs hither.
    Thou and I will see him dine
    when we bear them thither.
    Page and monarch, forth they went,
    forth they went together
    through the rude wind’s wild lament
    and the bitter weather.

    Sire, the night is darker now,
    and the wind blows stronger.
    Fails my heart, I know not how –
    I can go no longer.
    Mark my footsteps my good page,
    tread thou in them boldly:
    Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
    freeze thy blood less coldly.

    In his master’s step he trod,
    where the snow lay dented.
    Heat was in the very sod
    which the saint had printed.
    Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
    wealth or rank possessing,
    ye who now will bless the poor
    shall yourselves find blessin

    Read more: Christmas Carols – Good King Wenceslas Lyrics | MetroLyrics


    • Thank you Lin, I’ve always loved that carol. It’s so upbeat! Thank you too for telling us of your tradition. I think that is most likely what normal, everyday people do:).
      I never knew all of the verses for that carol, it’s really nice!


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