Today, as many of us Anglophiles (and Janet) know, is Boxing Day. Boxing Day is not, as some (i.e. my son) might think, a day when it is okay to punch who you want, most usually (in the case of my son), your mom.
It refers to the day when the more fortunate people would give to those less fortunate, dropping tips into the box the servant or tradesperson was carrying. It usually also takes place on St. Stephen’s Day, in honor of the first martyred Christian saint. As in Good King Wenceslas, who looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel
And that Good King did his part for Boxing Day, saying to his page,
“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather
and Wenceslas does his part, and the song ends with:
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing
Now, unless some of you are in much different circumstances than I would guess, you don’t regularly employ servants, so Boxing Day doesn’t have as much relevance. Presumably you tip some of your regular suppliers–newspaper delivery, doormen, mail carrier, etc.–but that’s not done on a specific day. It has become the custom for the boss and servants to switch places, but I am fervently hoping most of you have today off, so that hopefully isn’t an issue.
So why might Boxing Day be relevant? Because also unless some of you are in much different circumstances than I would guess, there are people like Wenceslas’s poor man who are in need, and who have less than you do. Especially this year, where the economy is doing a swandive into the nether regions.
Charity has gotten negative connotations, evoking pitiful Dickensian orphans with pleading eyes waiting for the bountiful person to bestow whatever scraps they can spare. Instead, how about we evoke the spirit of Boxing Day and give a gift to someone who works hard all year, no matter if they’re working on keeping their family together, or making ends meet, or whatever? This year, my husband and I were able to give money to my son’s school so that a child could get a gift on Christmas–it was a modest $25, and was going to go towards a gift, not food, or heat, or whatever, but it just about broke our hearts to think that a kid would wake up on Christmas with no gifts under the tree (and doubtless no tree, either, but that is beside the point).
Some of you more Wenceslasian have probably already taken care of this aspect of the Season; if so, share it so we can applaud you! Others of you might be planning on something in the New Year–volunteering, donating, whatever. Please share that, too! Still others of you might not have thought too much about it, so if you decide you want to Box this year, please let us know.
Thanks, and Happy Holidays!