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Boxing Day
Report to Moderator Old 06-08-2002 09:30 PM
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By Sarita Mehra

Last December, as I was planning where to spend Christmas lunch, my roommate came to me with a puzzled look on her face. She showed me a flyer from a local English-themed pub advertising their celebrations for Boxing Day

There’s a large community of English and Canadians in South Florida, but it seemed December 26, Boxing Day, was practically a secret club. My roommate mused over patrons to the pub donning boxing gloves and ‘duking’ it out for prizes and she was quite prepared to take part, safe in the knowledge she was getting Tae-Bo videos for Christmas.

After I stopped laughing and wrestled with letting her go to the pub with a pair of gloves and a mouth-guard, I attempted to explain the ‘mysteries’ surrounding this day -- of which none center around boxing.

~ Medieval ‘Box-Up’~

Circa. 400-1500 AD -- the Middle Ages -- it was customary for the aristocracy of England to ‘box-up’ their leftovers, and ‘tattered riches’ for the poor and present gifts to their servants and those that performed services for them during the year, ie: the gardener, butcher and lamplighter. It’s also considered that this was the day the churches would open the alms boxes and distribute their contents to the poor and needy. The tradition followed into the English colonies, and is marked on calendars in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

~ St. Stephen’s Day ~

December 26, is also St. Stephen’s day, also known as the Feast of Stephen. Stephen was the first Christian martyr who was stoned to death after the Crucifixion, and though the day is widely celebrated in Ireland, the festivities have little to do with the Saint.

Referred to as the day for Hunting the Wren, on this day, groups of young boys would hunt a wren. The dead bird was then tied to the top of a pole, decorated with holly sprigs and ribbons. With blackened faces, the group would sing at houses in hopes for coins, gifts or food. Those that gave money to the boys would receive a feather from the wren as thanks. The collected money was then used to host a village dance.

The origin of this tradition isn’t positively known, though one legend tells of a wren alerting enemies on the whereabouts of St. Stephen. Another stemming from the Viking raids of the 700’s, tells of a wren eating breadcrumbs one night on a drum in the Viking’s camp. This awoke the drummer who, in turn sounded the alarm. The Vikings went to battle and thwarted a surprise attack by Irish soldiers.

~ Modern Tradition ~

Nowadays, Boxing Day is another excuse to be with friends and family. In England, it is a public holiday marked with soccer games and a traditional meal of roast lamb or beef. Around the world, it is another ‘day off’, and a good time to start planning New Year’s resolutions.
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