Credits: Darren Makowichuk/Calgary Sun/QMI AGENCY
Boxing Day is a bit of a strange tradition in Canada. After spending weeks in shopping malls finding the perfect gifts for our family and friends, and spending days receiving and opening those gifts, many Canadians celebrate the end of opening gifts by flocking to the nearest shopping mall to get even more things we want. We recover from our Christmas hangovers by buying more stuff. Sounds like hair of the dog to me.
The average Canadian spends $994.50 on Christmas, buying decorations, hosting parties, spending on travel, plus food and gifts. This number is over $1,100 in the Maritimes, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, according to an Angus Reid study - about 16% higher than last year. Many Canadians go into debt to cover these costs, using credit cards and lines of credit. 43% of Canadians are worried about spending too much money on Christmas.
So, what are the origins of Boxing Day? And what's with its namesake?
Boxing Day wasn’t always about getting great deals at the mall. Much like Christmas, the Boxing Day holiday has its origins charity and giving.
Before Boxing Day was a shopping holiday, it was a giving holiday. In the carol Good King Wenceslas, the Duke of Bohemia was strolling on his property when he came across a poor servant gathering wood in the middle of a snowstorm. The Duke felt empathetic to his poor servant, considering his own wealth and all he had celebrated over Christmas. He had leftover and unused food and wine from his Christmas day feast, so he decided to put together everything he had not eaten or drank over Christmas and gave them all to the peasant and his family.
That was 10th century, but the tradition of giving on St. Stephen’s Day, which falls on December 26th, dates back to the first days of the Church of England. During Advent, Anglican parishes display giving boxes for churchgoers to donate money to the needy. The name Boxing
Day may have come from these boxes, or the Christmas boxes we break down the day after Christmas. As we break down our Christmas boxes, the tradition was to distribute the contents to those in need.
Boxing Day isn’t just celebrated in Canada, it is celebrated throughout the commonwealth. The shopping tradition is the strongest in Canada, while in the UK the focus is on football and rugby rivalry matches. In South Africa, the holiday was changed in 1994 to be called the Day of Goodwill. After Nelson Mendela and the African National Congress (ANC) came to power, they wanted to forever put Apartheid behind them. One of the changes was to restore Boxing Day to its origins, which is meant to be a day dedicated to giving to those less fortunate.
Whatever the origins, Boxing Day is a holiday rooted in charity and giving. Canadians should remember this as we rush to the malls to get good deals on clothes, electronics, and whatever else we stumble upon in the mall. Start a new Canadian Boxing Day tradition: pick up an extra jacket and drop by the United Way or Salvation Army to give it to someone in need.
Boxing Day’s origins go much deeper than shopping. We don’t need to stop going to the local mall, but we should also remember good will, and also start going to the local church or charity as well.