Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day. Or is it?

Some things we can be clear about. Today is December 26th and it is the feast of Stephen, first Christian martyr. But is it Boxing Day?

The Church Book and Desk Diary tells me Boxing Day is Monday 28th. Is it correct?

Boxing Day's etymology is to do with collecting Christmas Boxes. These were originally for the ragged poor but in Victorian times came to be for 'lesser' employees. Consequently in those times Boxing Day had to be a working day, so it couldn't be a weekend. Since Sunday was a day of worship the Christian church would not, in those days, allow a secular festival, to fall on a Sunday.

However these days most people call 26th December Boxing Day, Christmas tips are collected before Christmas and we simply move the Bank Holiday, which has become linked to it, to a Monday if December 26th falls on a Saturday.

I keep by me a copy of Chambers Etymological English Dictionary from 1964. It is a good place for research into the changing meaning of words. Even 40 years ago the simple definition of Boxing Day was, 'in England the day after Christmas, when boxes or presents are given.' But The Little Oxford Dictionary 1981 says, 'the first weekday after Christmas Day.'

Although it takes a while to change a custom or tradition we are living in the period when culture is changing. Today isn't, technically, Boxing Day, but the constant use of the term is beginning to determine that it is, or soon will be.

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