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!
Very good reminder, Megan. This year my critique group donated to a local charity rather than give gifts to each other
And I’ve been putting extra dollars in the salvation army pot.
We took several tags from an Adopt a Family tree and bought requested gifts for several young girls.
The other thing we did, which was harder, was to go on our 2nd monthly visit to perform music at a nursing home that doesn’t get many groups in normally. Our caroling was a bit ragged and unrehearsed and my children were a bit disturbed by the far-gone state of many of the residents (teachable moments). But when a woman who seemed lost in dementia joined in on Jingle Bells, I was glad we made the effort.
I saw a news item a few days ago about how overcrowded some animal shelters are this holiday, since some owners who have lots jobs are turning in their pets. I thought this was terrible (even if I had no money at all, I would find a way to feed my pets! There is no way I could be parted from them!), so I gave a little more than usual to our local Pug rescue group.
And there has been no punching around here today! 🙂
That’s “lost” not “lots”, jeez
I made a donation to the Christopher Reeve Foundation for the first time. It just felt right.
My daughter and I were just discussing the traditions of Boxing Day as I drove her to the mall, dropped her off, then drove around looking for a spot for so long that she was done shopping and I just picked her up. Holy carbon footprint Batman!
Actually the traditional reason for charitable giving on Boxing Day is in order to count the donations against your income tax in the current calendar year! This is a tradition that actually predates Christianity, and descends directly from the practices of the ancient Romans. (They also pioneered the use of tax-free municipal bonds for aqueducts, roads, and gladiatorial combat.)
Happy Boxing Day!