HAPPY BOXING DAY, my dear Weekend Warriors! Sorry to postpone our continuation of Henry II‘s reign for another Sunday, but: 1) somehow I suspect you don’t mind terribly much, and 2) it’s only fitting after devoting the last twelve days to Christmas that we give a nod toward another holiday celebrated here in England—a treat for you to enjoy if you’re moving to London (unless, of course, you’re relocating to London from Canada, Australia, New Zealand or another Commonwealth nation where you already celebrate it!).
26 December is also known as St. Stephen’s Day in honor of St. Stephen who, like Thomas Becket from our Weekend Warrior post two weeks ago, was martyred. He’s renowned, in fact, as the first Christian martyr, and perhaps you’ll recognize him from that Christmas ditty that starts with:
“Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen…”
As for “Boxing Day,” though it might tempt you practice your right hook, the term more likely derives from the boxes in which monetary gifts were given to tradespeople in recognition of their services.
It may also relate to collection boxes for churches and other charity, or perhaps the savings-of/gifts-or-bonuses-to servants, who were given time off to celebrate Christmas with their families the day after. The exact origin doesn’t seem definitive, though it’s believed the holiday may date back to the Middle Ages.
In modern times, the first business day after Christmas can still be a day of tipping people for their services, paying employees bonuses, or donating to charity, but Boxing Day (fixed on the 26th, regardless if it’s a week or weekend day) is mainly a day to just kick back with family, catch a movie or play a game, that low-key sort of thing to recover from Christmas yet still prolong its joy. It’s also a day for shopping, like America’s Black Friday that follows Thanksgiving.
So enjoy, London expats, enjoy. If you’re not braving the shops or cinema this year, at least curl up to some good TV or conversation within the comforts of your London apartment to share in this lovely UK holiday.