Boxing Day Surprise

Not many things surprise me. Well, actually, many things do surprise me. But not many things when it comes to the minutia of U.S. — Canada differences — the Z/Z thing, the different Thanksgiving Days, miles vs. kilometres, honour vs. honor and so on.

As you might imagine, then, I was flummoxed to learn this afternoon, courtesy of my all-seeing, all-knowing colleagues at Yankee Publishing that in America they don’t have Boxing Day.

In America, the day after Christmas, it seems, is known simply as “the day after Christmas.” It isn’t a holiday.

I was therefor embarrassed when said American cousins asked what exactly Boxing Day is and why it’s called that. I didn’t really know. And so here, for their benefit, is the best answer I can find:

The day after Christmas, the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is better known as Boxing Day. The term may come from the opening of church poor boxes that day; maybe from the earthenware boxes with which boy apprentices collected money at the doors of their masters’ clients. Nowadays, we often see, in certain families, gifts (boxes) given to those who provide services throughout the year. “Boxing Day” is listed in the Canada Labour Code as a holiday.
This information courtesy of the Dept. of Canadian Heritage, which has a mainline to the Royal Family and thus can probably be trusted in this regard.

So, Canadian readers, think of your poor American brethren on December 26, as you gaily celebrate the festival of the cardboard container, and they trudge back to work, ever so wishing that they lived a couple of hundred miles to the north.


Johnny Rukavina's picture
Johnny Rukavina on December 21, 2001 - 03:39 Permalink

I find it sort of curious that your American Cousins don’t know about boxing day given that I got this from their archive of ‘Red Letter Days’:

This holiday derives from the Old English custom of giving Christmas “boxes” to tradesmen, postmen, and servants. The original boxes were usually made of earthenware and contained money, which could be retrieved only by breaking the boxes open. These days, a gift of money is usually contained in a greeting card and given before the holiday. Where celebrated (Great Britain, Canada, and Australia), Boxing Day is welcomed as a quiet day of recuperation from the season’s hectic festivities.