For the month of December–with bonus posts on November 30 and January 1!–I am delighted to welcome a wonderful assortment of guest bloggers to take over the helm. Please enjoy their generous contributions to the blog this month. My own bloggery will resume January 2. I wish you and yours happiness and health this holiday season. Please note: comments are disabled until my return.
Happy December 26th, known in many places as Boxing Day. A day drenched in traditions and legends, Boxing Day is also St. Stephen’s Day, but explaining what Boxing Day is and its origins is a matter of grand debate.
There are a number of theories as to how Boxing Day came into being, and one of the oldest is linked to the Duke of Bohemia, otherwise known as Wencelas, (As in Good King Wencelas of the carol fame). The legend says that on St. Stephen’s Day Wencelas was coming home and saw a poor man gathering wood in a snowstorm. Moved by the man’s plight, Wencelas gathered food and gifts for the poor man and carried them there himself in the cold and snow. That act of charity continues into modern times, with the annual charity drives that come during this season of giving.
Another interesting origin suggestion is that ships of old would sail with a sealed box of money. If the ship returned and the voyage was successful, the box would be given to a local priest to distribute to the poor. Later, Anglican parishes carried on this tradition in a slightly different way by setting out a box for the poor on Christmas Day, and the next day it was opened and the collected coins given out to the needy in the community.
Probably the most commonly known tradition of Boxing Day is that it was traditionally the day that nobles gave their servants and those who provided them services “boxes” containing gifts and/or money. Some aristocrats and eventually the Victorian middle class began to complain as to the number of people–their grocer, the lamplighter, the local merchants, who would all come banging on the door Boxing Day looking for their annual boon. This then gave rise to Christmas bonuses and the annual tips we give nowadays to our favorite hairdresser, newspaper carrier, or doorman.
How can you celebrate Boxing Day? I for one have no servants who need boxes and I gave to Salvation Army kettle already. You could join everyone else in the States who makes it the second biggest shopping day, spending the gift cards Santa tucked in their stockings and returning that unwanted reindeer sweater Auntie Lou sends every year. In Britain you might go fox hunting or stay home and watch sports and feast on leftovers from your Christmas meal. I personally, after weeks of baking, cleaning, decorating, shopping, and cooking Christmas dinner for 12 will be spending Boxing Day reading a book, with my feet up and a good cup of tea close at hand. You?
Elizabeth Boyle is a New York Times bestselling author of 21 historical romances, none of which have featured a Boxing Day scene. Just boxing. In celebration of her upcoming release, If Wishes Were Earls, coming out December 31st, she is giving away a giant box of books, prizes and great cheer. Enter at her blog. (http://www.elizabethboyle.com/blog/?p=2684)