Boxing Day now a distorted custom

Every so often something comes along that shows how much our economy and our customs have been changed, often for the worse.

This is illustrated by the way we now celebrate Boxing Day.

Too often nowadays so much of our holiday life has been commercialized. Holidays such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day for instance have become retail events, distorting the original purpose of those occasions.

Almost everything you knew about those important days has been modified.

For the past few decades Boxing Day was a great retailer’s dream or nightmare. People once used that day, usually a holiday in Canada, to return something for another article, or for one that was more suitable or that “fits better.”

Then too, Boxing Day customarily marks the end of the Christmas retail season. Prices are cut drastically, so that retailers can clear their shelves for another day’s event. Also, retailers are anxious to reduce their inventories by means of clearance sales that will attract buyers who have held off their purchases for just that date. In this new world, the original justification in a social conscience has been all but forgotten.

In the church calendar, the day after Christmas is St. Stephen’s Day. It was known generally as Boxing Day. That was due to the custom of giving Christmas boxes of money to domestic help, housekeepers, all kinds of trades people and others who serve the public. That custom began long ago in the pre-Christian era throughout the Roman Empire.

In the old English Christmas season, the “12 day” was also an occasion for giving and receiving presents. Long ago English rulers presented gold, frankincense and myrrh at the alter and then people exchanged gifts.

All of the foregoing reveals graphically how society has been transformed. Formerly people believed that some festivities were pagan and outlawed them. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that Christmas, particularly in Canada and in the United States, became a day of festivity.

Many who perform some service for us expect a “tip,” whether it be a newspaper delivery individual, the garbage man or a handyman. The concept of charity seems to be ignored, except perhaps at churches.

For us, currently, the usual Boxing Day retailer’s mad rush that often begins at pre-dawn, should be transformed again to something more significant.

That is probably just a pipe dream, but at least we should keep that in mind as we rush to the nearest retail outlet.


Bruce Whitestone