Was da day aftah Christmas and all troo da house,
I stay going in circles, trying fo’ catch dat darn mouse!
No wondah get roaches — look all dis kaukau!
I told you guys, put ’em away when you pau!
But nobody listen, nobody care.
Look, on da tree — whose new underwear?
Who wen’ fill up da stockings
with eggnog and beer?
You guys going drink ’em;
we no waste nothing here!
So much junks on da floor, I no can keep track.
I goin’ tell Santa fo’ take ’em all back!
Half da toys stay broke, da rest is lost;
Gunfunnit, you guys know how much
dat went cost?!
Time for you guys make
one New Year’s resolution
‘Cause I had it to here
wit’ dis household pollution.
Till today, I was in one holiday mood
But now I gotta bus’ out da atta-tita-tude.
So shape up or ship out! Help out or hele on.
If you no can be good, you bettah be gone.
And no go cry to your faddah
fo’ him side wit’ you,
Cause if he no watch out,
he going get lickens too!
— Tita’s Day Aftah Christmas
If you run into my friend Tita today, please don’t tell her that it’s Boxing Day. She’s bound to misinterpret it. I did, for years.
I was 7 or 8 years old when I first saw the words “Boxing Day (Canada)” on my father’s desk calendar. Perhaps because my dad was a weightlifter and a former Navy wrestler, the thought of Canadians celebrating the passing of Christmas by squaring off in the ring didn’t seem strange to me. I filed it away as a curious little factoid, one that didn’t intrigue me enough to pursue any further.
It wasn’t until much later that I learned Boxing Day was about presents, not prizefights. I don’t remember who it was, or how the subject arose, but someone — scoffing at my ignorance — informed me that Boxing Day was an old English tradition, sort of a formalized regifting in which people would box up any unappreciated Christmas gifts and take them back to the store for exchange. Turns out they were wrong, too, albeit closer to the truth than I was.
An hour of online research turned up the true history as well as the modern incarnation of Boxing Day. Observed as a public holiday in the United Kingdom and other associated countries like Canada and Australia, the tradition dates back to medieval times. The British upper crust would give their servants a hard-earned day off after working on Christmas Day, sending them home with boxes filled with little gifts, money, even leftovers from Christmas dinner. December 26 is also the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, known for his acts of charity.
Eventually, and I’m not sure how or why, Boxing Day became associated with major sporting events: soccer, cricket, racing (both horse and auto), but not boxing. Many celebrants spend the holiday gathered around the television, cheering for their favorite teams and munching on leftovers. Other sports enthusiasts, not satisfied with being mere spectators, follow the increasingly popular custom of plunging into icy-cold water in charity swim events. That appeals to me about as much as a jab to the jaw, but at least it’s in keeping with the original point of the holiday.
Nowadays, Boxing Day is best described as the U.K. version of Black Friday, with stores opening before dawn and bargain hunters flocking to malls for giant post-Christmas sales. According to a recent survey cited by news.com.au, some 10 million Aussies will spend over $3 billion today, in shops and online. In Canada, nearly half the population is expected to join the fray.
Happily, in all the articles about shopping on Boxing Day, I didn’t find a single incident of the kind of retail rage that Black Friday seems to inspire. So, Boxing Day still has nothing to do with fights. Not yet, anyway. Like I said, don’t tell Tita.
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.