Someone on an unschooling e-mail list I’ve belonged to for over a decade was asking for more information about Boxing Day. We have list members in England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all of which observe this holiday to one degree or another.
Boxing day was traditionally a day the servants had a day off from their duties. Because of this the gentry would eat cold cuts and have a buffet style feast prepared by the servants in advance. In modern times many families will still follow this tradition by eating a family style buffet lunch, with cold cuts rather than a full cooked meal. It is a time for family, parlour games and sports in the UK. The traditional recorded celebration of Boxing Day 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 were placed outside churches used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen. In the United Kingdom it certainly became a custom of the nineteenth century Victorians for tradesmen to collect their “Christmas boxes” or gifts in return for good and reliable service throughout the year on the day after Christmas. The exact etymology of the term “Boxing” is unclear, with several competing theories, none of which are clearly true. The establishment of Boxing Day as a defined public holiday under the legislation that created the UK’s Bank Holidays started the separation of ‘Boxing Day’ from the ‘Feast of St Stephen’ and today it is almost entirely a secular holiday with a tradition of shopping and post Christmas sales starting.
I was so late in getting our Christmas decorations up this year and what with the weather interrupting some of our plans, I don’t feel like I’ve had enough Christmas yet. Our family always leaves the tree up until after Chris’ birthday January 10th (his request since he was a tiny little fellow) and I really enjoy that week or so after Christmas. All the have-tos are done and we can just relax and enjoy some extra time together. We’ve only found time for two Christmas movies so far but I plan to have us watch one each night until we’ve seen all of our favorites. Just because a lot of Americans think Christmas ends on the 25th (and many start taking down their decorations the very next day!) doesn’t mean that I can’t take a page from the book of many Europeans and observe the Twelve Days of Christmas and Epiphany. I’m even going to host a big “after the holidays” party. It’s so hard to find a time that works for everyone in those busy weeks before Christmas that I decided to do mine afterwards. I received a new cookbook as a gift and I’m eager to try out several of the delicious sounding appetizer recipes. I’ll be sure to share the recipes for the ones we really like. In fact, I’ll probably put them on my new blog which I hope to have up and running the first of January.
So, how are you and your family spending these first few days after Christmas? Any special traditions?