Monday, December 26, 2011

Foxes, Boxes, Leftovers, and Shopping

"Boxing Day is a bank or public holiday that occurs on December 26, or the first or second weekday after Christmas Day, depending on national or regional laws. It is observed in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, some other Commonwealth nations, and across most of the Province of Ulster (Northern Ireland). It is also called Day of Goodwill (South Africa) and St. Stephen's Day or the Day of the Wren in most of the Republic of Ireland. In some European countries it is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day. The exact etymology of the term "boxing" is unclear and there are several competing theories, none of which is definitive. The tradition has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions. The European tradition has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown and there are some claims that it goes back to the late Roman/early Christian era; metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen. In the UK, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys' diary entry for 19 December 1663. This custom is linked to an older English tradition: in exchange for ensuring that wealthy landowners' Christmases ran smoothly, their servants were allowed to take the 26th off to visit their families. The employers gave each servant a box containing gifts and bonuses (and sometimes leftover food). Boxing Day is a popular day in the U.K. and U.S. for mounted fox hunters. Despite fox hunting being banned by the Hunting Act of 2004, Boxing Day remains the biggest hunt of the year for most hunts in the UK by use of scent drag trails instead of live quarry." (Wikipedia)  In fact, Boxing day is a popular day for sporting events of all kinds against local rivals in many countries around the world - including the pugilistic arts (boxing) in southern Europe.  All in all, Boxing Day is a happy custom threatened only - and everywhere - by the modern emergence of that most popular pastime, shopping.