[I wrote this editorial eight years ago for The Palladium-Times. In these trying times, it's as relevant as ever.]
Happy Boxing Day, everybody!
What, you’ve never heard of Boxing Day?
You wouldn’t be alone. Though the holiday is celebrated in many countries including Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, it never registered in the States.
First of all, it has nothing to do with the sport of boxing or pugilists like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield or Muhammed Ali.
It also has nothing to do with boxing up gifts one has received and returning them to stores … an all-too-familiar American tradition on Dec. 26.
Boxing Day is believed to have started as a day of charity in England, where it is also known as St. Stephen’s Day. One prevalent theory is this post-Christmas holiday began as a way for masters to thank servants, tradespeople, merchants and other workers for their service through the year with small (boxed) tokens of appreciation. Another popular thesis postulates that the day after Christmas was when churches opened their alms boxes and presented their contents to the needy.
The exact origin is disputed, but ultimately Boxing Day became an occasion to help the less fortunate. The World Book Encyclopedia notes that the holiday traditionally included giving money and other gifts to charitable institutions, needy individuals, and people in service jobs.
And with this being a time for giving, what’s wrong with that?
For the Ebenezer Scrooges out there who didn’t help others during the holiday season, this offers a Dickensian twist for redemption — a chance for those fortunate enough to share blessings with friends, families or even strangers.
Christmas is behind us … but a New Year still looms. Wouldn’t Boxing Day be a good tune-up for being that better person most of us want to be in the year to come?
Not much is required to do your part for Boxing Day 2.0 … but consider it a first step toward extending the holiday spirit year-round. If, for example, you have leftover non-perishable food items from stocking up for the holidays, this would be a good time to give them to local food pantries, who see a decline in donations after Christmas (and let’s not forget that hunger is a year-round problem). Now that there is a respite from the holiday stress, is there anyone who could really use a bit of friendly support from you? Or, perhaps easiest of all, can you perpetuate one random act of simple kindness today?
It doesn’t seem much to ask. Since Boxing Day isn’t an American tradition (yet), there’s nothing wrong with starting small.