What is Boxing Day anyway?

  So what is the purpose of Boxing Day? Is it contact sports-related? Do we get to put on padded gloves and smack each other or do we take out our post-Christmas blues on a punching bag, disappointed we did not get our much coveted present? Perhaps it's the day we are supposed to throw the tree and all the decorations in boxes for next year. WRONG!

  The origins of Boxing Day likely predate the 19th century reign of Queen Victoria, but the tradition became known as Boxing Day sometime during her 65 plus years on the throne of Merry Olde England. I don't know when the day  was officially declared a holiday but I'm sure Wikipedia can tell us that. The landed gentry, from the Royals all the way down the ranks from the Queen's court to the country squire would pack up their surplus food, drink and un-wanted gifts to distribute to their servants, tenants, and other not so well-off folk. The boxes were given out as alms on the 26th of December. Hence the name Boxing Day.

All the Commonwealth countries, part of the once huge British Empire, adopted the name Boxing Day as the day after Christmas, but the original intent was lost over the years. When I was a small child growing up in Canada, Boxing Day was the day when we relaxed after the hustle and bustle of Christmas. It meant eating leftovers that didn't require hours of preparation, going tobogganing or skating, visiting Auntie Alvina or cousin Esther, or maybe taking in a matinee at the Odeon Theatre. No stores were open. It was, after all, a Holiday. My Dad, who worked at Winnipeg Transit for 40 years, had Christmas and Boxing Day off as the buses only ran on limited holiday service. Mom worked at Eaton's, a huge department store which was of course closed on the 25th and 26th. So Boxing Day was really a holiday for all of us.

Some time in the mid-80's all that began to change. Stores won the right to be open on Boxing Day to try to out-do the competition on after-Christmas sales. People began to line up at 5 am or earlier to be the first inside the doors in order to nab the best deals. Radio and TV coverage showed eager shoppers setting up tents  outside the stores in 20 below temperatures as early as Christmas evening. There were reports of injuries from being trampled in the rush to get through the doors when the stores finally opened on Boxing Day morning. Does this sound familiar? It's just like the Black Friday shopping phenomenon, only in December.

I for one would like to return to the "Good Old Days", when Boxing Day was family fun, not just another excuse to stock up on next year's Christmas presents and half-price gift wrap.