dec. 26 is known as Boxing Day.
For most of my life (until yesterday, actually), I believed this was a holiday created by all of the Scrooges, Grinches and Cheer-Misers of the world to apply pressure to abruptly and immediately end the Christmas celebration the day after the holiday proper. It made perfect sense in my head.
What could a day called Boxing Day be about but dragging out all of the boxes for your Christmas decorations, sweaters and assorted swag and boxing it all up on that day? For years, this has been one of the saddest days of the year. While some people do “celebrate” Boxing Day in this way, it isn’t actually the intent of the day.
I was curious as to whether I was alone in my ignorance, so I asked a few friends and family what they thought one celebrated on Boxing Day. Most said they had no idea what Boxing Day was or that there was such a day. Some knew it was a holiday in other countries but didn’t know how it was celebrated.
Others believed it was the day on which you gathered up and disposed of all of the empty boxes left from all of the gifts that had been opened on Christmas day. A disconcerting number of those closest to me, including my wife, my sister, my mother and my secretary, believed it was a day for putting on boxing gloves and throwing hands.
I believe the logic behind their theory was that after a few days of celebrating Christmas with one’s saintly family in spaces designed for much fewer people, throwing a few jabs, hooks and uppercuts to end the year might be cathartic. I will certainly be watching my back over the next few weeks, but this is not what Boxing Day is all about.
Following a little bit of research, there are two predominant theories concerning the origins of Boxing Day. Both of them are rooted in compassion and care for others and a manifestation of the spirit of Christmas.
One theory is that wealthy families would give Christmas boxes to their servants on the day after Christmas. These boxes would be filled with money, food and gifts to thank them for another year of service and to provide them with the means to celebrate Christmas with their families.
Another theory is that the tradition comes from the alms box. Throughout the Advent season, contributions would be placed in the box by those who attended the church. On the day after Christmas, the box would be emptied of its contents, which would then be distributed to those in need in the community.
I love that both of these gestures of grace and kindness come after Christmas Day. It’s common for people to be inspired to do acts of goodwill throughout the Christmas season, but once the day passes, we go back about our business.
In truth, however, the Christmas holiday lasts from Dec. 25 through Jan. 6, according to the liturgical calendar (we have to give time for the Magi to join the party at the Nativity).
In any case, this act of compassion occurs after we celebrate the birth of Christ. It’s a wonderful illustration of the truth that Jesus changes everything. The gospel of John tells us, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Jesus, the light of life, has lit up the darkness of our world. Through faith, the glorious grace of his gospel not only saves us, but it also is meant to inspire us to faithfully follow his example. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:14 and 16, “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.” We celebrate the light of life coming in Jesus on Christmas Day, but that light is meant to shine through us every day.
Over the next few weeks, we will certainly gather up and dispose of all of the empty boxes from our Christmas celebrations. To my great dismay, we will box up all of our Christmas decorations and swag. And we very well may want to put on boxing gloves and go a few rounds with friends and family who have pushed us over the edge.
As Christmas passes, though, let us celebrate Boxing Day early and look at others with compassion that we might care for them with the same grace that Christ made available to us through his life, death and resurrection. Christmas is coming to a close, but the spirit of Christmas continues.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected]