Friday, December 28, 2012

Boxing Day (Dec. 26) in the USA

If you are a visitor from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, you are familiar with Boxing Day.  I, on the other hand, had never heard of it until a few years ago, when a dear friend on a Yahoo group added it to the calendar to be posted on December 26.  That's when I went looking for a good explanation of the day.

First, it does NOT mean the day to get rid of your leftover Christmas boxes, nor does it mean it's the day to duke it out with family who refuse to leave, nor does it mean it's a day to return boxes of unwanted gifts to the store for a refund or something you truly desire.  Instead, in the US (and even Canada), it is a day of deep discounts, usually up to 50% off most items.  Highly sought out Christmas ornaments, cards, and wrappings are what many shoppers are looking for.  After that, the most sought items include electronics and high end toys.

I started my day at a store we all love to hate: WalMart.  It is one of those groceries-only neighborhood markets, so I went there first.  I quickly learned not everything was half off, so I had to pass on some tea I was going to buy.  I could buy it at that price any day, except it had a Christmas name and was in with the Christmas reduced items.  I ended up getting tissue, some flash type cards, and a word search game.  I'll use these in my sewn books.  Of course, the gingerbread coffee sounded too good to pass up, but after the first cup, I was sorry I bought it.

Boxing Day roots can be traced to Britain, where it's also known as St. Stephen's Day.  Think of the song "Good King Wenceslas" where he saw a poor man in the snow, on the "Feast of Stephen."

This time, at Dollar General (at least I think that's the name of the store which is in the same shopping center as WalMart) I failed to ask about the discounts, because the woman told me everything in the area was 50% off.  However, the cards were only reduced 25% and there were no discounts on the ribbon or Sharpies.  Had I known, I would have passed on this entire trip.

Other than being able to trace the roots of Boxing Day to Great Britain, and the fact that less fortunate people were given gifts after Christmas, since friends and relatives got gifts either before or on Christmas, that is all that is really known for sure about this day.  Everything else is either speculation or conjecture.

Every year I buy a new Christmas tree to add to my collection.  But this year, I stopped at the thrift store, where all Christmas items were half price.  I was quite pleased that I didn't go overboard this year, even though I said I wasn't going to buy anything new.  Of course, these weren't new, so I felt that was OK.  The tree on the left holds a votive candle and the one on the right has a candle already built into it that has never been lit.  New to me, and less than $3.00 for two new trees!

Now that we have established Boxing Day was a British day to give a tip or present to the lower classes, this is where Boxing Day folklore gets a bit muddy.  Depending on who you choose to believe, there are varying theories of the origins.

My next stop was Dollar Tree, a store that boasts "Everything's a Dollar."  However, on this day, there were several items marked 50% off, including the photo stickers, the bells, the door hangers, and the chocolates (gotta have chocolates, even if they are some of the lowest grade you can buy).  I also bought more flash cards and a set of poster letters in which the packaging promptly fell apart.

Centuries ago, during feudal times, landowners (or manor lords) often brought everyone together for Christmas.  Since all the people who lived on the manor, mostly serfs, were in one place, it was easy to pass out the yearly necessities.  Each family got a box, depending on their status, and handing out supplies to the serfs was made easy for the manor lord.  In this scenario, the annual restocking became known as Boxing Day and was an obligation of the lord of the manor. 

While still in my neighborhood, I stopped by Ace Hardware and picked up three little trees I plan to use in an upcoming project, as well as a new nightlight and the last wrapping paper I will ever need in my lifetime!  I have to admit, this will be much easier than the kraft paper I stamped and wrapped my gifts in this year.

Since we're talking ancient times, another theory involves the merchant class, who often gave gifts to tradespeople or servants the day after Christmas, much like we give gifts or tips to our paper "boy" or person who tends our lawns or swimming pools.  Those gifts from days gone by were packed in boxes, so the day came to be known as Boxing Day.  In this scenario, the gift is strictly voluntary, and didn't involve an obligation.

Not too far from Ace Hardware, is Johnson's Garden Centers.  I stopped in there for some of my replacement flicker light bulbs.  I bought two strings several years ago and some of the lights have burned out over the years.  I keep replacing them, though, and will as long as Johnson's keeps selling them at Christmas.  BTW, these lights stay on year round and live on top of my two "kitchen" cabinets I keep in my dining room.

Another version of Boxing Day is that servants brought their own boxes to the master the day after Christmas.  Each master put small amounts of coins in the boxes.  This scenario is similar to the second theory above, in that the master was not obligated to give gifts or coins, and the servants did not depend on the master for their yearly food, clothing, and other necessities. 

My final stop was at JoAnn's, where I bought the bird cage, a cardinal stamp, the holiday stickers, holiday paper, and the snow kraft paper, all at 1/2 price.  I also bought two cards of buttons that were on clearance, and a spool of thread with my cents off coupon.  The thread is behind the bird cage, and you have to look hard to see it.

In yet another scenario, Boxing Day came about because seasonal donations were often placed in locked boxes in churches.  On Christmas, clergy would unlock and open the boxes, then distribute the contents the day after Christmas.

As you can see, most everything has been put away, in fact most everything immediately after I took photos of the specific store I visited.  One door hanger was broken, so I'll take it apart, and the poster letters will need a new home.  However, everything else is where it should be.

Still another scenario involves an old English tradition. Since servants had to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were given the next day off to visit their families. Each servant was given a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.

Other than shopping till there was no tomorrow and doing serious (and I mean SERIOUS) damage to a gift card, I also checked all the stockings.  Why are there three?  I'm not sure.  It used to be if someone dropped by, they got a stocking to open, but lately, I have been gone on Christmas every year.  I think you can tell which one is Bleubeard's stocking.  Yep, it's the one with the balls.  NO SNICKERING ALLOWED.  Only I can snicker.

In many countries, especially those associated with the UK, Boxing Day is a bank holiday.  Of course, there is the shopping, but there is also the Rugby and Football (not like USA football, but what we call soccer).  There's also horse racing and fox hunting.  Although fox hunting has been banned since 2004 in the UK, there is an alternative hunt.

I can assure you, at least ONE gift will be well received this year.  Bleubeard now has his choice of new collars.  And they were purchased long before Boxing Day, too.

So which Boxing Day scenario do you prefer?  It's pretty obvious, I went all out for the first time in at least six years, and went Boxing Day shopping!

14 thoughtful remarks:

Corrine at said...

What a stash...although I think your Christmas finds at the thrift were by far the best. That's always my first go to. Our thrift is call boxtops, what do you know, maybe they like Boxing Day too! Actually it supports a couple of shelters so I always do go there first....Happy New Year. xox

Clare with paint in her hair said...

I was always told it's called boxing day because the church opens its donation box's and distributes to the poor. I always thought it was called boxing day as a child because grandad had boxing on the telly! LOL

Healing Woman said...

I love your take on Boxing Day! It's amazing the deals you got. You deserve them for venturing out in all the traffic and fighting crowds to shop on the day or days after Christmas.

I experienced "Boxing Day" twice in the Carribean. First time was in Grand Cayman where it seemed most of the residents were packing up boxes of canned goods and special Christmas gifts and sending them to Haiti the day after Christmas. Next, it was on the island of Eleuthera. Residents there were sending boxes off to other islands who were worse off than they were. It was such a joyful time! Everyone had a smile on their face as they packaged up their goodies. I think it is the act of giving that brings us most joy.

Bleubeard will probably be thrilled with the new collars.

Happy New Year's Elizabeth and thanks for the lesson on Boxing Day. Beautiful post.

Halle said...

You made a haul!. I only went to Target and Micheal's. I was in search of a new tree for next year. I bought one but am still I little shocked at the price...even at 50% off. I also got lots of tissue paper and a few gifts for next year.

Mom's in the hospital as of a few hours ago. Maybe pneumonia. Am waiting for the rounding doctor to call me this morning.

voodoo vixen said...

I have lived with Boxing Day all my life and in the UK we even refer to Christmas presents as Christmas Boxes!! I have always favoured the theory that Boxing Day was so named because the servants got it as a holiday (they were needed until Christmas Day was done and dusted) and many went home to their families and the nice kind generous noble folk gave them a box with the leftovers from Christmas to take with them.
Poop... I got Bleubeard a collar for Christmas... well, it won't be with you for a while so he may need another by then!! ;)

Angie said...

Love reading your research into Boxing day ...I have often wondered ...and I'm British !!!I often wondered if it was anything to do with servants fighting ... for their masters and their friends to bet on.Interesting that there is so much sport on that day.It is more likely to be money in the church box or a box of leftovers to go home with. Happy New Year xx

see you there! said...

You gave us lots of choices for the Why of Boxing Day. The one that is most familiar to me is the one that has the servants having the day off to see their family, maybe with a small box from the Lord of the Manor. It is just possible I read a few too many English Cozy Mysteries tho.


BLiSsAngELs said...

I was taught it was when the poor boxes at the back of the church in the middle ages were open and the money given by the rich folk were given to the poor of the county...

jinxxxygirl said...

I've heard of Boxing Day before but never knew what it meant and was too lazy to look it up. Thank you so much for the info! I like the idea of using it as a day to give to the poor or charities. Good way to start off the new year!

You had a GREAT haul!! Me ? I tend to not want to fight the crowds. My daughter and i say one year we will do Black Friday AND the day after Christmas.....just to say we've done it but usually we stay far away from all the craziness.....Hugs! deb

Terrie Purkey said...

You're just a fount of information! Thanks for sharing your research and your shopping successes....

Hope you have an inspirational, creative and totally fabulous new year.

Craftymoose Crafts said...

You did quite well with your Boxing Day shopping! I have to admit that I (as yet) have not done any shopping as I am trying to stick to the "not buying anything new" this year.

I like the explanation of Boxing Day that the servants were given a box and allowed the day off with their families.

Dianne said...

Terrific post about Boxing idea of it was the well-off giving to the less fortunate...but they all sound plausible to me, and perhaps the truth is a combination of them all. You had quite a busy shopping day, so fun to see your bargains! Happy New Year my dear!

Rita said...

I just heard about boxing day last year and wasn't sure what it was. Looks like you made a real haul! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey girl....what a nice post to cap off the Christmas holiday! My daughter who lives in Jamaica organizes a group of little kids and they go around giving home baked goodies to the needy Jamaicans,of whom there are many.If that's not the true spirit of Christmas, I don't know what is !