Boxing Day is a public holiday in several Commonwealth countries, including New Zealand, but there’s no clear consensus about how it originated. On his blog, my e-buddy Roger Green pointed me toward origin theories in Britain (where, after all, it began), and Wikipedia provides an altogether too certain explanation:
“The name derives from the tradition of giving seasonal gifts to less wealthy people and social inferiors. Until their distribution, these gifts were stored in a ‘Christmas box,’ which was opened on December 26, when the contents were distributed. In the United Kingdom, this was later extended to various workpeople such as labourers and servants.”
Despite the presentation of that theory as fact, in reality no one knows for sure how or why the holiday originated. All we know for sure is that it has nothing to do with pugilism, as I once thought.
However, Wikipedia does provide a good description of what Boxing Day is in New Zealand:
“Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much as the United States treats the day after Thanksgiving. It is a time where shops have sales, often with dramatic price decreases. For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest revenue.”
Many stores now have “Boxing Day Sales” that last right up to New Year’s Eve (the New Year’s Sales take over on January 1). I’ve always thought it was odd to talk about a “Boxing Day Sale” that lasts five or six days, but, then, I’m pedantic like that.
When Christmas or Boxing Day falls on a weekend, the public holiday is moved to the following week. So, since this year Boxing Day is a Saturday, the Public Holiday will be on Monday. That means we get a four-day weekend most years.
Better still, the same things happen with the public holidays of January 1 and 2: If they fall on a weekend, the public holiday shifts to the following week. So, we often get two four-day weekends in a row. I like that.
So Boxing Day, whatever its origins, is now a major shopping day. We’re going out to join the shopping crowds, too, but not for anything terribly exciting: We want to get some shades to keep the afternoon sun out so we don’t have a repeat of yesterday’s discomfort—this is expected to be a hot summer.