It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
Boxing Day has been celebrated on the day after Christmas for as long as most people can remember but not too many people remember why. This day is actually a public holiday in many parts of the world and while it may seem like a convenient way to simply extend the wonderful family holiday, it's steeped in rich history and tradition too.
Celebrated on the 26th of December, this is a holiday maintained across the world in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain and other Commonwealth nations (unfortunately, excluding India!). Most of these places have different names for the day such as Ireland's 'Day of Wren' or Poland's 'Second Christmas Day' and some even consider it to be an optional holiday, like Canada does.
For the most part, people agree that the concept for this secular holiday first arose in the Church of England. There are several theories about the day's origins, none of which are definitive. What people do on the day, however, has always been the same--giving alms to the needy, indulging in feasts and more recently, indulging in a 'shopping holiday'.
The first tradition of distributing wealth is linked to an custom in Britain where the aristocracy would give presents to the lower classes and when these servants returned home they would open their boxes and have a second Christmas day, which came to be known as Boxing Day. The other story can be found in the lyrics of 'Good King Wencelas' where the kindly King takes food and wine through a blizzard to a peasant's house so that they may have a better Christmas.
Other traditions related to this day vary from country to country and include England's annual fox hunts, Ireland's parading of wrens (types of birds) through town and even the Bahamas' Boxing Day street parade which they call Junkanoo.
As for England and Canada's version of the day, it has evolved into a major shopping event since the '80s and is essentially considered to be the equivalent of America's post-Thanksgiving Black Friday. There are dramatic price drops in all shops and for many merchants, it has become the day of the year with the highest revenue! Retailers open very early and long lines outside shops are not an uncommon sight either.
Conclusively, it seems that the history of this religious festival is deeper than most people think yet it has more or less evolved from a charitable day to an extended Christmas vacation. But hey, we're certainly not complaining! You can celebrate Boxing Day in India the only way we can think off--watch the test cricket on TV! Oh, and give some money to charity too.
-Pictures courtesy Thinkstock-
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