Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing Day

It has dawned cool and utterly clear. The moon is waning and it’s Boxing Day. It puzzled the Anglophile in me for many years. Being primarily an English (and Commonwealth) holiday, Elaine Berger has a lovely British explanation here, but Stephen Bentley has made understanding it easy in today’s “Herb & Jamaal” comic strip.

The Pastor, unlocking the poor box, says, “Today is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr...a day some folks call ‘Boxing Day.’ Some say the term comes from opening the church poor box and giving to those in need.” Herb’s response is, “I thought it meant the day that people fight to exchange gifts at the mall.”

Me - I always think of the carol:

Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the Feast of Stephen,

When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me, if you know it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,

Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me food and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
You and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread now in them boldly,
You shall find the winter’s rage freeze your blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.

Boxing Day is the second of the Twelve Days of Christmas. When you add in Hanukkah (see post below) this year, and Kwanzaa, makes for a very long season of holy days and holidays. Makes it easy to begin keeping Christmas in your heart for all of 2006, don’t you think?

1 comment:

newnimproved said...

Hi Laurence,

Boxing Day is not celebrated in the traditional sense here in India. Few even know what it means. All they know is that ‘tis the season to party!
Christmas is an occasion where people from all religions and communities come together and have a ball.
Though some grumble that Christmas and other festivals are being commercialized, I think it is great that India, birthplace of four religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism), the world’s second largest population of Muslims and a large number of Christians, the last week of the year epitomizes the Indian spirit of tolerance and is a shining beacon of unity amongst diversity.

Sunil Shibad