As distinct and varied as world cultures can be, if you dig around among them enough, you’ll find some surprising and consistent similarities in how people live, celebrate, work and interact, culturally speaking.
Well, today, it’s Boxing Day! December 26! But what is Boxing Day? It’s quintessentially British observance, but you’d be surprised at how familiar current trends for the holiday will seem to Americans.
Boxing Day has its origins in 17th century Britain, when most members of the working or service class would a)have the day off, and b)receive a “Christmas Box” from their employers filled with food and other practical goodies. The “boxing” reference may also refer to donations left in alms boxes at various churches, and intended for the poor; funds would have been distributed on the day following Christmas Day.
Now we’ve got a whole new ball game. Literally. Boxing Day is primarily observed as a banking holiday in most countries initially colonized by Great Britain (with the distinct exception of the United States), but the day off is about two real crowd-pleasers: sport and shopping.
For the Brits, Boxing Day sport is all about rugby and steeplechase. Rugby leagues typically hold all-day tournaments among local rivals and premier matches among national teams. Rugby also factors big in Australia and New Zealand on Boxing Day.
Sound somewhat familiar, Americans? The NFL capitalizes on major holidays for big games, and devotees rank watching their teams second only to their holiday meal. Right?
But far more recently, Boxing Day has taken on the commercial characteristics of another BIG American pseudo-holiday: Black Friday. On this day in Britain and many former British colonies, retailers have high expectations; the highest of their year, in fact, and often those expectations are met. And not unlike Black Friday, Boxing Day sales will begin at 5 am or earlier, and will feature doorbuster specials and similar incentives to get people in the door.
Granted, everybody loves a sale, a bargain, a retail score. That’s worldwide! But I’d rather skip the chaotic crowds, long queues, and buying frenzies in favor of a nice, quiet holiday at home… and just shop online!