Celebrating Boxing Day on December 26 seems like a very English tradition. As far back as the Middle Ages between the fifth and 15th centuries, Lord and Ladies handed out boxes of food and gifts to servants the day after Christmas. Today, however, it has turned into little more than another shopping day, like Black Friday. So what is Boxing Day, and how did it come about?
Saint Stephen is believed to have been a Greek Jew who converted to Christianity. He was well known and liked for giving food to the poor. But he was accused of preaching blasphemy against Moses and God, and he was sentenced to be stoned to death.
Eventually, Stephen was declared a saint. Today, he’s remembered as a great example of how people should give generously. Boxing Day was most likely inspired by him.
In History and Song
The 1853 Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas,” tells the story of the Duke of Bohemia, who was assassinated in 935. He was called a Rex Justus, which means Righteous King, after his death. A Czech chronicler wrote of him:
“But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.”
This was the inspiration for the song. It describes him seeing a poor man in need of fuel on Saint Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) and goes on to tell of his generosity to his fellow man.
Keeping With Tradition
The modern world seems to have forgotten about the real meaning of Boxing Day. But by remembering the origin of the celebration, we can be more like the Bohemian king, the martyr of the church, and good fold everywhere who treat the day as a time of giving instead of just a shopping opportunity.
Gifts are always appreciated, but it is in the act of giving and the care of others that we can celebrate the true meaning of Boxing Day.