December 26, 2009

Boxing Day – Great Britain and many other nations

Especially common in countries that were once part of the British Empire, this bank and public holiday originally came from the tradition of giving Christmas boxes to people of "lower class." For example, merchants would give gifts to tradespeople; alms boxes in churches would be opened, and the contents would be distributed to the poor; and masters would give servants the day off and a Christmas box.

Nowadays, many people use the day to make yearly donations to charities, but the day has also become associated, for many people, with shopping and sales.

Various countries have taken Boxing Day and given it their own twist:

Annual Sports Day – Falkland Islands
The sports played on this day include horse racing, bull riding, and sheepdog trials.

Day of Goodwill – South Africa
In 1980 Boxing Day was changed to Day of Goodwill so that South Africans could continue the “spirit of Christmas” to everyone in the country.

Family Day – Namibia, Zimbabwe, and other African nations
On this day, families play games together, feast, and remember their ancestors.

Junkanoo – British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas
This is a street parade with music. It is named after an African slave master and trader named “John Canoe,” and the festival celebrated the slaves' freedom.

You could continue the tradition of giving to the less fortunate by gathering boxes of canned goods for a soup kitchen, used clothes and blankets for a homeless shelter, and new cleaning supplies for a family aid organization—just to give a few examples. Or how about honoring people who have served the community? Make up boxes (care packages) for our overseas troops, and make boxes of homemade goodies for fire fighters.

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