December 26th is as much anticipated by some as much as Christmas itself. Lining up early in the morning, shopping online, going to malls to hunt down deals. These are all a part of the Boxing Day rituals. Even the current pandemic could not bring our Boxing Day routines to an end.
I’ve been a part of the craze on Boxing Day before. I’ve done the Christmas Eve Boxing Day sales online. I’ve lined up at stores. I’ve even enjoyed going to malls on Boxing Day – more to people watch than shop. This year though I did no shopping. I had no interest. No need. No desire. I’m thankful I’ve changed that way.
If Christmas is a Christian Holy Day then in Canada Boxing Day is the religious holiday of our consumer culture. Where else can we follow a day of receiving gifts, some lavishly expensive, with the need to go buy more things… with of course the justification of ‘we saved money!’. I’m not saying all Boxing Day purchases are bad. Saving money is good stewardship of our resources. However, the cultural momentum is much less about needs and much more about wants. If only December 26th, following the Holy Day of Christmas, could be about something different.
On the Church Calendar. December 26th is something different. December 26th is a feast day. It is the feast day of St. Stephen. We read in Acts 7 that Stephen was one of the first Christian martyrs – someone killed for believing in Jesus. The day after Christmas day was a day that remembered self-sacrifice, faith, and a desire to live God’s way. Stephen did not waiver in faith despite the challenges of the culture around him.
Then we arrive at December 26th and we seem to succumb and yield to the culture of consumerism. Yet Boxing Day was not always about that. IF St. Stephen modelled ingtegrity of faith and self sacrifice, at one point in time Boxing Day reflected those same values. Boxing Day was originally a day when the rich would give of themselves to the poor – not a day to buy more things for themselves. The rich would box up gifts for the poor, give their servants a day off and give a boxed gift to their servants.
Boxing Day was a day that focussed on loving those in need. In caring for them and giving of ourselves. While it certainly is a far cry from the giving of life that St. Stephen did, this original Boxing Day practice was much more aligned with Jesus’ teachings than our current practice.
Perhaps we need to explore our own motivations and reasons for how we celebrate Christmas and Boxing Day. Perhaps we need to start looking more beyond ourselves to the ‘other’ in our midst and seeing how we can give of ourselves to share the love of Christ with the world around us. To give self-sacrificially as we share the love of Christ with others. That would make Boxing Day a day to remember each year.