However, today – Boxing Day – is a whole other story, one I am not only happy to celebrate heart and soul but also urge others to acknowledge as more important than the day that precedes it. No, I am not still drunk from yesterday. Hear me out.
Ask many what Boxing Day means they will answer cricket, yacht racing and shopping sales. Some may even offer that its name comes from the many trips we make to recycling bins on the 26th to rid ourselves of the mountains of packaging our gift-giving rituals inspired. Oh yes, and the carol of empty bottles hitting bins.
Instead, Boxing Day is ripe with meaning and substance which really deserves commemorating – now, more than ever. For the day’s origin is based around kindness. Like America’s Thanksgiving Day which is inclusive (it is custom to invite a stranger to your feast as the Pilgrims did the Indians), Boxing Day is a secular day for humanity to prevail, for us all to stop and take stock of what we have that others might not.
Traditionally, December 26 was a day off for servants of the rich. To thank them for their service, masters would package up or box gifts to give to their employees, which would in turn be taken home to their families and enjoyed.
How this began is disputed, however, it is widely believed that the tradition began in churches in the Middle Ages when parishioners collected money for the poor in alms boxes, and these were opened on the day after Christmas in honour of the Christian martyr St Stephen, whose birthday falls the day after Jesus’s.
Currently, so many of us are vulnerable and in need, suffering jeopardised livelihoods and frayed sanity; terrified of this latest cluster and the inevitable next. Those who still can’t see beloved others in other states and countries; families who have lost loved ones; the sick, the frightened, the broke and depressed.
Everyone was aiming for a normal Christmas. We got a COVID one, of course, as 2010 was bound to deliver true to form. Yet what did we do when we poked our heads out of induced rabbit holes and took stock of our new reality? Well, we shopped. With a gusto.
Roy Morgan’s annual Christmas retail sales forecasts conducted in conjunction with the Australian Retailers Association shows Australians will spend over $54.3 billion across retail stores during the Christmas trading period this year. And even in these most trying of times, this is an increase of 2.8 per cent compared to the year prior.
For struggling retailers, I couldn’t be happier. For humanity, not so much. And here is where my love of Boxing Day really kicks in.
If, like me, you are now sitting with a stack of stuff you didn’t have yesterday (probably because you didn’t need any of it), let’s celebrate in the joy of giving some away in true Boxing Day tradition where we give without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Let’s embrace this holiday as one of gratitude by acknowledging what we have and considering those who have not.
While Christmas is supposed to be all about kids, let’s encourage little ones to re-gift some of their new playthings (ideally, they keep one and donate all others) or offer their old, less loved toys to those without. Let’s consider stopping the glut of food in our homes and feeding others instead.
And let’s realise those suffering are often closer than we think: the next door neighbour we haven’t seen in a while; the old friend you haven’t checked in on; the colleague who has gone quiet in iso; the elderly; the lonely; the separated.
It is not just food, gifts or money that is needed at this time of year, it is good will and kindness, what I understand the Christmas message intended before organised religion and marketing took over and turned it into a consumerist orgy.
Therefore. I declare that today shall be and remain the highlight of my Christmas celebrations – a Santa, Jesus and Mariah-free opportunity to take stock and reflect with love and grace the truism it is always better to give than receive. Let’s make Boxing Day a time to not only take stock of our privilege, but share it.
Wendy Squires is a regular columnist.