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Saturday, December 20, 2008

What is Boxing Day?

In every calendar, under December 26, there it is: Boxing Day. The mysterious holiday that nobody seems to understand.

I have always wondered what Boxing Day was. Some possible explanations I came up with were a day devoted to boxing matches, or perhaps a day where all boxes left over from Christmas gifts were discarded. The truth is that Boxing Day has nothing to do with Christmas or boxing. In fact, it has no importance in America.

Boxing Day is recognized as a public holiday only in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Boxing Day is what Columbus Day, Presidents Day, Labor Day and Memorial Day are to Americans: a gladly accepted, yet unexplained, extra day off of work or school. It serves as an extension to the Christmas holiday giving the British, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians an extra day off for travel or just plain relaxation after the chaos of Christmas.

Boxing Day is officially on December 26; however, if December 26 is to fall on a weekend, the public observance of the holiday is the next weekday. In 2004, for example, Christmas and Boxing Day fall on Saturday and Sunday, moving the public observance of the two holidays to Monday and Tuesday; two days where all banks, government offices, post offices and stock markets are closed.

The origins of Boxing Day are not known. There are two widely accepted theories as to where this holiday came from. Some theorize that Boxing Day was introduced in Britain during the Middle Ages when servants were expected to work on Christmas Day in order to ensure a smooth Christmas celebration for wealthy families. In return for working on Christmas, servants were given the next day off to spend with their families and were presented with boxes filled with gifts and cash bonuses.

Others believe that Boxing Day originated from the times when churches would open their poor boxes and distribute the money to the poor of the town.

Whatever the origin of Boxing Day, it will be that more painful waking up early to go to work on December 26 as people across the Atlantic in Great Britain, up north in Canada, and across the world in Australia and New Zealand are relaxing after an exhausting Christmas celebration.

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