Ah, Boxing Day. Few holidays in the US incite less fanfare than this unsung hero from across the pond. And why should it? Christmas is over, you and the family are pooped, and the last thing you want to do is shop or be obligated to drink. That said, it should be noted that Boxing Day continues to be an officially observed holiday in Canada, The UK, Australia, New Zealand and several other far away places. So, in an effort to be ever-more worldly, we thought it’d be a pleasant to shed a little light on the holiday’s background, if nothing more than to give you conversation fodder as you reluctantly and sleepily entertain those out-of-town guests as they prepare to get out of your hair until next December.
Boxing Day finds its origins in a simpler, more pretentious time. The holiday, also known as St. Stephen’s Day, was a day in which the servants of the house (Read: Downstairs Downton Abbey) would receive gifts from their bosses since Christmas day, as you can imagine, was actually one of the most important workdays of the year. The gifts were given in a “Christmas Box”, which is how the day got its name. It was also customary to give other folks in the service industry (mailmen, trash collectors, etc.) a little something extra as well.
The holiday itself can be traced back to the Middle Ages, although its exact origins are unknown. The “Christmas Box” is most likely descendant from the Alms Box, which was used to collect donations for the poor. Today, it’s still a day for charitable acts, but it has also emerged as sort of Black Friday for people abroad and "take everything back to the mall" day in the U.S.. For this reason, it is truly baffling that it hasn’t caught on in the US, since we Americans really love our designated shopping days.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Why not, in the spirit of Boxing Day, donate a gift you were planning on returning to someone in need? Here are a two places in the city that are always accepting alms, in any form:
Goodwill of San Francisco
1580 Mission Street
SF Public Library Friends Donation Center
438 Treat Street
Make Boxing Day “a thing”. True, it does hearken back to an old classist society, but any excuse to organize some giving around this time of year is a good one. And hey, if this thing really picks up some steam we might even get another paid holiday out of it.
To Boxing Day!