Tuesday, December 26, 2017

On the Second Day of Christmas

On a day when most Americans are ready to box it up and put it all away for another year—some people going so far as to kick their worn out Christmas tree to the curb for trash pickup the next morning—our family is thinking of heading the other way. We are, after all, expecting "Christmas" visitors in the next week—not to mention, one member of our family just spent three weeks of the Christmas season halfway around the world in a place where Christmas is rarely, if ever, mentioned. We are not yet ready to call it quits on Christmas.

We are, in fact, considering heading in the opposite direction. The "Twelve Days of Christmas" sound good to us. Well...at least the second day.

Borrowing from the mother country of our colonial roots, I'm thinking here of Boxing Day, the traditional "second day of Christmas" when the custom is to remember those beside our extended family with gifts of holiday cheer. While not a custom in the United States, it is still part of the culture in English-speaking countries around the world, including, of course, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, most of Australia, and in form if not name, in Ireland as well as some unexpected, non-English-speaking places like Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries.

While the Black-Friday-styled shopping frenzy and the sports extravaganzas of Boxing Day don't particularly attract me, I do like the sentiment behind the origin of the day: the customary thank-you gift for tradespeople and others whose service made an appreciated difference throughout the year. A remembrance on at least this one day seems fitting. And after spending a day gorging on the gifts we give each other in a family with no lack, it oddly brings more joy to go out and find those workers who make life a little brighter in their own small way—the baristas at the coffee hangout, the small business owners at the local shops we frequent. These are the people who go out of their way to add that special little touch to our purchases, or who remember our names and greet us as we come in the door to their establishment. These are the ones who manage to transform this impersonal city living back into the cozy personality of life lived in the villages of bygone years. I like that personal touch.

If you haven't had the tradition of Boxing Day in your family, give it a try to introduce your own personal version of the holiday tradition. Go out and find a way to bestow a small gift of thanks to someone. If nothing else, find a way to bestow a random act of genealogical kindness via your laptop from the comfort of your own home. It adds to the afterglow of Christmas to have just one more day to extend that joy to someone else. 

Above: "Christmas Eve," undated chromolithography by Philadelphia printmaker Joseph C. Hoover & Sons; courtesy of United States Library of Congress via Wikipedia; in the public domain.

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