A Transatlantic Christmas

Post written by Katherine, a United Planet team member

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Boxing Day is the name of the day after Christmas, a national holiday in England. No one works on Boxing Day and it is traditionally spent with family, a fact that I took for granted until I moved to the USA. I incorrectly assumed that EVERYONE who celebrated Christmas not only had Christmas Day off from work, but also Boxing Day. This hopeful bubble was shattered by my American husband who informed me that people in the US certainly do NOT have the day after Christmas off– and I better get used to it!

This was a shocking discovery, along with many other things that make England and the U.S. very different places to live (e.g. general confusion in the supermarket around the words jam, jelly, Jell-O, biscuits, cookies, arugula, rocket, etc.). These discoveries led me to ponder over many things about England, including the origins of Boxing Day (and why on earth is it called Boxing Day?).

After some investigation I discovered that there are various, differing opinions on the origins of Boxing Day:

1. During feudal England, manor lords and other noblemen would give their servants or serfs ‘boxes’ of practical goods such as grain and clothing on the day after Christmas.

2. Servants working for wealthy families would have to work on Christmas Day, so they would be given the following day off to spend with their own families.

3. In churches, it was traditional to open the congregation’s donation box on the day after Christmas and to distribute the funds among the poor.

4. Boxing Day would be the day when a wren would be captured, put in a box, and then introduced to each household in the village, where he would be asked to bring good luck in the coming year.

5. A Christmas box, in English tradition, is a box used in artisanal or craft shops. Apprentices, visitors, and others would put donations into the box. After Christmas, it would be shattered and all the contents split equally among the workers.

All these theories are good possibilities for why we now refer to the day after Christmas as Boxing Day—the tradition probably springs from a mix of all of them (and many more!). Boxing Day is definitely a tradition that we enjoy in England, and one that I won’t take for granted any more!

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Now that’s what I call “A wonderful life” for Christmas.

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