Thursday, December 26, 2019

BOXING DAY FACTS AND TRIVIA

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Boxing Day is celebrated on the day after Christmas, December 26th each year in various countries around the world, generally those that were settled by the British Commonwealth. The countries celebrating Boxing Day include Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Greenland, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. 

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In spite of its name, Boxing Day has nothing to do with fisticuffs, the trashing of empty boxes left over from Christmas or the return of unwanted presents to department stores. 

The term is of British origin, and the Oxford English Dictionary traces its earliest print attribution to 1833, four years before Charles Dickens referred to it in “The Pickwick Papers.” The exact roots of the holiday name are unknown, but there are two leading theories, both of which are connected to charity traditionally distributed to lower classes on the day after Christmas. 

One idea is that December 26 was the day centuries ago when lords of the manor and aristocrats typically distributed “Christmas boxes” often filled with small gifts, money and leftovers from Christmas dinner to their household servants and employees, who were required to work on December 25, in recognition of good service throughout the year. These boxes were, in essence, holiday bonuses. 

Another popular theory is that the Boxing Day name arose from the alms boxes that were placed in churches during the Advent season for the collection of monetary donations from parishioners. Clergy members distributed the contents of the boxes to the poor on December 26, which is also the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and a figure known for acts of charity. (Ireland celebrates December 26 as St. Stephen’s Day.) 


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The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations from Britain in the 1830s, defining it as "the first weekday after Christmas day, observed as a holiday on which postmen, errand boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas box". 

The term "Christmas box" dates back to the 17th century, and among other things meant a present or gratuity given at Christmas 

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In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys' diary entry for 19 December 1663. 

This custom is linked to an older British tradition where the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families since they would have to serve their masters on Christmas Day. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food. Until the late 20th century there continued to be a tradition among many in the UK to give a Christmas gift, usually cash, to vendors although not on Boxing Day as many would not work on that day. 

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In England the practice of hunting wrens was once a popular activity on Boxing Day. It was considered unlucky to kill wrens on any other day. 

Today Wren Day, also known as Wren's Day, Day of the Wren, or Hunt the Wren Day, is celebrated on 26 December, St. Stephen's Day in a number of countries across Europe. The tradition consists of "hunting" a fake wren and putting it on top of a decorated pole. Then the crowds of mummers, or strawboys, celebrate the wren (also pronounced wran) by dressing up in masks, straw suits, and colourful motley clothing. They form music bands and parade through towns and villages. These crowds are sometimes called wrenboys. 

In past times and into the 20th century, an actual bird was hunted by wrenboys on St. Stephen's Day. The captured wren was tied to the wrenboy leader's staff or a net would be put on a pitchfork. It would be sometimes kept alive, as the popular mummers' parade song states, "A penny or tuppence would do it no harm". The song, of which there are many variations, asked for donations from the townspeople. 

The custom is kept alive in parts of Ireland with echoes of the tradition are to be found on the Isle of Man and, centuries ago, on the English mainland and in particular in Wales. The tradition is so ancient it may well be druidic (the gaelic word for wren is dreolĂ­n, which possibly derives from draoi ean, or ‘Druid bird’). Why kill the bird? Well, perhaps the tradition simply marked the end of the year with a mid-winter sacrifice, or commemorated the early Christian attempts to drive out paganism. 


The Green & Gold Wren on Green Street in Dingle. Ireland. The Wren’s Day tradition has survived in Dingle, as well as other pockets around the country, including parts of North Kerry and West Limerick. 

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During the Age of Exploration it was not uncommon to place a Christmas box on ships. The money put in the box by sailors, for good luck, was later given to a priest. The priest would open the box on Boxing Day and distribute the money to the poor. 

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Although America has decided that, much like the metric system and extra U's in certain words, it will not embrace the Brit tradition of Boxing Day, it is observed in some U.S. states. 

The U.S. states that celebrate Boxing Day as a public holiday include Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas. 

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Some have seen Boxing Day as a day to return Christmas gifts to the store if they were unwanted or needed to be exchanged. 


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In Britain Boxing Day is a bank holiday and has been since 1871. British banks also stay closed on Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Whitmonday, and the last Monday in August. 

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In the Christian Church, December 26th is also the Feast of St. Stephen. This day commemorates St. Stephen for his work in the church, mostly caring for the poor and for widows. He was eventually stoned to death by an angry mob. He is remembered for begging God not to punish his killers as he was being stoned to death. 

Also that good King Wenceslas Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen, when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. 


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By the way, have you ever listened to, or read, more than just the first verse of Good King Wenceslas? Well, here it is, the whole thing . . . 


Good King Wenceslas looked out 
On the feast of Stephen 
When the snow lay round about 
Deep and crisp and even 
Brightly shone the moon that night 
Though the frost was cruel 
When a poor man came in sight 
Gath'ring winter fuel 

"Hither, page, and stand by me 
If thou know'st it, telling 
Yonder peasant, who is he? 
Where and what his dwelling?" 
"Sire, he lives a good league hence 
Underneath the mountain 
Right against the forest fence 
By Saint Agnes' fountain." 

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine 
Bring me pine logs hither 
Thou and I will see him dine 
When we bear him thither." 
Page and monarch forth they went 
Forth they went together 
Through the rude wind's wild lament 
And the bitter weather 

"Sire, the night is darker now 
And the wind blows stronger 
Fails my heart, I know not how, 
I can go no longer." 
"Mark my footsteps, my good page 
Tread thou in them boldly 
Thou shalt find the winter's rage 
Freeze thy blood less coldly." 

In his master's steps he trod 
Where the snow lay dinted 
Heat was in the very sod 
Which the Saint had printed 
Therefore, Christian men, be sure 
Wealth or rank possessing 
Ye who now will bless the poor 
Shall yourselves find blessing. 

The words to the carol "Good King Wenceslas" were written by John Mason Neale and published in 1853, the music originates in Finland 300 years earlier. This Christmas carol is unusual as there is no reference in the lyrics to the nativity. Good King Wenceslas was the king of Bohemia in the 10th century. 

Good King Wenceslas was a Catholic and was martyred following his assassination by his brother Boleslaw and his supporters, his Saint's Day is September 28th, and he is the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic. St. Stephen's feast day was celebrated on 26th December which is why this song is sung as a Christmas carol. 

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South Africa changed the name in 1994 from Boxing Day to the Day of Goodwill as a removal of colonial symbols.

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Some countries, including Australia, have turned Boxing Day into a huge shopping day, similar to Black Friday in the US, the day after Thanksgiving, with huge markdowns and sales. 


For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest revenue. Many retailers open very early (typically 5 am or even earlier) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. It is not uncommon for long queues to form early in the morning of 26 December, hours before the opening of shops holding the big sales, especially at big-box consumer electronics retailers. Many stores have a limited quantity of big draw or deeply discounted items. 

In recent years, retailers have expanded deals to "Boxing Week". 


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In Australia, Boxing Day is a public holiday in all jurisdictions except the state of South Australia, where a public holiday known as Proclamation Day is celebrated on the first weekday after Christmas Day or the Christmas Day holiday. 

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In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, Test cricket matches are played on Boxing Day. 


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Boxing Day in Sydney is also the occasion for the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. 


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On Boxing Day 2004 a massive earthquake created a tsunami around the Indian Ocean resulting in the deaths of over 300,000 people. 

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National Candy Cane Day is celebrated 26th December every year in the United States. 


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The 10th season of M.A.S.H. featured an episode called “’Twas the Day After Christmas,” which sees British soldiers giving the 4077th the idea of following "Boxing Day tradition" by having the officers and service members switch positions and responsibilities for the day. 


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