Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Information request

Hey, UK readers of The Moon Topples. We here in America have no idea what Boxing Day is. Please enlighten us.

Sure, there's Wiki, but many of you are terrific writers. I'd rather get my info from one of you if possible.

It sounds positively pugilistic, but I'm guessing it isn't.


nmj said...

I have no idea what wiki says, but we grew up thinking boxing day comes from the rich giving the poor gifts in boxes the day after christmas . . . it is also the wedding anniversary of my granny & grandad (he died many years ago), & he would say, We got married on boxing day & we've been boxing ever since.

Anonymous said...

Boxing Day goes back to medieval times, more than 800 years ago, when alms boxes were placed at the back of every church to collect money for the poor. Traditionally, it is on this day that the alms box at every English church is opened and the contents are distributed to the poor.

Historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with Christmas boxes.

During the late 18th century, Lords and Ladies of the manor would "box up" their leftover food, or sometimes gifts and distribute them the day after Christmas to tenants who lived and worked on their lands.

The tradition of giving money still continues today. It is customary for householders to give small gifts or monetary tips to regular visiting trades people (the milkman, dustman, coalman, paper boy etc.) and, in some work places, for employers to give a Christmas bonus to employees.

Boxing Day is also known as St. Stephen's Day (when Good King Wenceslas looked out).

'Good King Wenceslas looked out,
On the Feast of Stephen...........'

He lived in Rome and was the first man to be killed for believing in the teachings of Jesus. His story is told in the Acts of the Apostles 6: 1 to 8: 2.

Some people claim that he shares this day with another St Stephen, who came from Sweden. St Stephen of Sweden is the patron saint of horses. Boxing Day has long be associated with outdoor sports, especially horse racing and hunting.

Traditionally Boxing Day is a day for fox hunting. Horse riders dressed in red and white riding gear, accompanied by a number of dogs called foxhounds, chase the fox through the countryside in the hope of tiring it out.

Eventually the hunters hope the fox will be so tired that the dogs will be able to catch it and kill it.

Many animal welfare campaigners object to fox hunting saying it is cruel to kill a fox in this way, while many proponents and participants view it as a crucial part of rural history in England, vital for conservation, and a method of pest control .

In November 2004, MPs voted to ban hunting with dogs in England and Wales. As from 18 February 2005 hunting with dogs became a criminal offence (although it is still legal to exercise hounds, chase a scent and flush out foxes to be shot).

Family Time

Traditionally, Boxing Day is the day when families get together. It is a day of watching sports and playing board games with the family.

In recent times, some shops have broken from tradition and started opening on Boxing Day to start the New Year sales. Hundreds of people now spend Boxing Day morning in queues outside shops, waiting to be the first to dive for the sales racks as the doors opened.
Hunting of the Wren

It is unlucky to kill a wren on any day apart from Boxing Day. Hunting of the Wren on Boxing Day was once a popular activity in England.

Groups of young boys know as 'Wren boys' would hunt a wren and then tie the dead bird 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.

"The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
On St Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
We hunted him far and hunted him near
And found him under the bushes here.
Hurrah, my boys, hurrah!
Hurrah, my boys, hurrah!
Knock at the knocker and ring at the bell,
And give us a copper for singing so well."

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.

This odd ritual was not restricted to England. It was prevalent in some continental countries on Boxing Day as well as the Isle of Man, Wales and Ireland.