Monday, December 26, 2016
The Second Day of Christmas
If you, unlike this writer, were to wake up and find yourself living in the United Kingdom or any of its Commonwealth nations, today you would be celebrating Boxing Day—the second day of Christmas.
Here in the United States, despite having our roots in colonial England, we have not carried on that British and European tradition of a giving day following Christmas Day, itself. True, with this year's calendar in which Christmas falls on a Sunday, we Americans find ourselves following the form of our British forebears in having not one Christmas, but two in a row. Yet we aren't exactly following it in spirit.
The history of many European countries includes the designation of this day as the Feast of Saint Stephen, in which collections were made for the benefit of the poor. In addition, in Great Britain, the custom for this day included offerings of "Christmas boxes" to those in service positions—thus, the reference to this day as Boxing Day.
While Americans typically don't celebrate Boxing Day as an official holiday, there have been regional customs similar to this, mostly in some southern states. Then, too, many turn their mind to year-end giving, albeit more under the impetus of tax advantages than philanthropic spirit. However, in the shimmering afterglow of the Christmas holiday, it wouldn't be a bad idea to emulate this spirit of Boxing Day, even for those of us who normally wouldn't have the twenty-sixth of December marked on our calendars as a legal holiday.
Above: "Under the Christmas Tree," 1892 oil on canvas by German Impressionist artist Franz Skarbina; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.