December 26, 2018 |
To those of us born or brought up in the UK or in countries that erstwhile formed part of the long defunct British Empire, Boxing Day is another day of slumber, eating left overs and watching whatever sporting activities are being broadcasted. The Boxing Day cricket test match in Melbourne, Australia attracts crowds of nearly 100,000 wishing to escape another round of turkey sandwiches and a games of Monopoly with their Nan.
But in the rest of the world, Boxing Day is completely unknown, although the day on which it falls, 26th December, is known to a number of people as St. Stephen’s Day and is a holiday for followers of Roman Catholicism. Suffice to say, the majority of the activities remain very similar, finishing off left overs and fulfilling an incredible urge to escape the claustrophobia of the family occasion and go drink with the long-lost mates you only saw 48 hours earlier.
Whilst Boxing Day’s exact naming origins remain shrouded in the past, two main sources of literature provide an insight into its possible origins. The Oxford English Dictionary in 1830’s termed it “the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box”. In Britain these Christmas boxes contained money or presents given for good service throughout the year. The great diarist and our second literary source, Samuel Pepys, wrote on the 19th December 1663 that he “gave something to the boys’ box against Christmas” and this practice seemed commonplace throughout the Middle Ages where the staff working for the wealthy were given a holiday on the day after Christmas to visit their own families, which they did laden with boxes containing gifts and left over food,
This sense of giving extended into Europe, which has had a long tradition of giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions. Whilst the name Boxing Day is unknown to our European cousins (current cousins that is) it is believed to be in reference to the alms box placed in areas of worship to collect donations for the poor. In the late Roman/early Christian period, metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to St. Stephen’s Day.
So whatever we call it, the 26th December has long been tied to a sense of giving and collecting alms for those under-privileged members of society. If we asked if anyone in Bay 13 of the Melbourne Cricket Ground or a teen waiting in line for the Boxing Day sales in New Look to start what the meaning of Boxing Day was, it is unlikely that we are going to get an answer worth repeating. It is not their fault that they are more focussed with the hedonistic escapism of the day, but the fault of those who have let the compassionate nature of the day dissolve into history and be replaced by another opportunity to convince the consumer that they absolutely need to spend more money on things they absolutely do not need.
Whilst the purpose of this article is not to have yet another pop at the mediocrity of society and its obsession with creating commercial opportunities in order to communicate how much it has changed, but more to suggest that the 26th December should become a day for reflection and a day in which everyone can do something for someone less fortunate. I hear those who cry that this should be every day, but as it isn’t maybe we can start on this day.
Retailers, instead of having yet another sale, maybe you could hand out gifts to those who received nothing on Christmas Day apart from frostbite and the occasional kicking from a drunk reveller. People of the world, rather than making another turkey sandwich and then complaining that you are about to burst, maybe you can create a Christmas box of your own and just leave them outside your gate.
Restaurateurs, you could do all of the above and as mentioned in the article, Charity starts in the Kitchen, I believe that the F&B industry doesn’t take its opportunity to provide as seriously as it could. It is in a position to do something amazing in the world, yet spends its time developing apps and services that delivery expensive food to the increasingly privileged and lazy.
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