Our Boxing Day was a happy one spent, like many others, at home with the family. We played board games, transformed the Christmas dinner leftovers into a feast and ate a disgusting amount of chocolate. But the inevitable question did arise; “why is it called Boxing Day?”. I hesitated and muttered that it was something to do with boxes, before heading to the bookshelf to see if I could find the answer.
It seems that it is to do with boxes – hooray! – but not the boxes normally associated with Christmas cheer (you know, the ones containing PlayStations and such like). No, these were boxes containing money that would have been given to apprentices and servants; essentially a Christmas bonus from their employers for all their hard work that year. Employees were also given the day off to spend with their families, and if they were extra lucky, they were gifted some festive food to take with them too. This is a custom that dates back to 1600 and continued into the Victorian era, I suppose up to the point where we stopped having low-paid servants and when bank holidays were introduced.
Boxing Day is now an official bank holiday which, in theory, means that workers should still have the day off to spend with their families, though in reality many people have go to work as usual. New traditions seem to have taken over in wake of the quiet time once offered by Boxing Day. Now families go to football matches, head into town for the Boxing Day sales frenzy or head out on a much-needed long walk to burn off the excesses of Christmas Day.
Whilst I would love to receive a box of money from my boss on Boxing Day (hint hint), I’m more than happy to use the day to work my way through a box of chocolates. Or two.