The Day After Christmas

Do you normally honor Boxing Day? I had not even been aware of it when I was a child, but as a young adult I learned that some traditions call for boxing up gently used clothes and toys the day after Christmas and putting them out for those less fortunate. Some churches have bins for collecting food, as well, and those are distributed to the needy.

Boxing Day has never been widely celebrated in some parts of Europe or the United States, but it is a national holiday in the UK and Ireland. It is also widely celebrated in Hong Kong, Australia and other Commonwealth nations. In the Victorian era servants would have the day after Christmas off to celebrate with their families, after serving the gentry on Christmas Day.

December 26th is also the feast day of Saint Stephen, the patron saint of horses, which is why Boxing Day has been associated with horse racing and fox hunting, especially in Ireland. While fox hunting has been banned since 2004, avid horsemen and women have found ways to enjoy the sport on Boxing Day, within the limitations of the law.

That is something I did not know. About the fox hunting on December 26th, I mean. I wonder if my horse would like to go chase a fox?

Something else I did not know is that older Boxing Day traditions have given way to consumerism, with the day after Christmas becoming a huge shopping day. Too bad. Like Black Friday shopping mania, this is one tradition I will not adopt.

This year, I spent my Boxing Day saying goodbye to my son and his family who were here from Austin for Christmas, and later picking up my cat from the animal hospital where he had been for several days. After we got home, there were several hours of time on the sofa with him curled in my lap. He was happy to be home, but his kitty companions were not thrilled with how he smelled and avoided him.

In years past, the following is how the Miller family operated the day after Christmas. The excerpt is from a humorous column I wrote for many years for a Dallas suburban newspaper.

The day after Christmas was usually one of the best and one of the worst days of the year for our family. If that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry, I’m not sure it does to me either. But let me try to explain. It was the best because:

There were now 364 more shopping days until Christmas.

All the build up for the Big Day was finally over, and the noise level in the house had dropped about 20 decibels.

I didn’t have to cook since we had all those leftovers from Christmas dinner.

The kids would decide they liked each other after all, and we could go the whole day without a fight – maybe.

The kids would invite me to color with them, or play a game, and we could share some really good times together – as long as they let me win now and then.

But every coin has its flip side, and the other side of this day was trying to decide who would clean up the mess. Who would get to spend the next four days sorting through the thousand-and-one little pieces of games, toys, and puzzles that in less than one day managed to get tossed together from one end of the house to another?

On Christmas day, nobody seemed to care about the mess, but the day after, the house was filled with moaning and wailing and the sounds of blood-letting and bones breaking …

Who would dig through the 22 bags of trash to find the instructions for assembling the model airplane, because, for once in his life, a kid cleaned up after himself and threw them away with the wrapping paper? (Since that same kid would think nothing of digging through the neighbors’ trash to see if they threw away anything he could put to good use, maybe I could pawn that job off on him.)

Who would accept the challenge of figuring out what to do with all the unidentifiable things we received as gifts, such as the strange looking thing from Aunt Mildred that could either be a doily or a dishrag.

The gadget from Uncle Willie that favors a Chinese puzzle, but could actually be his eccentric approach to the can opener.

The game that takes an IQ of at least 300 just to open the box.

The funny little knitted things from Aunt Lucy that are either thumb-less mittens or toe warmers.

I could have called them all personally to thank them for the gifts, and hope that somewhere in the conversation they will mention what they are. But that would have taken some of the fun out of lazy summer afternoons when we’d drag this stuff out again and play a new game called “What on Earth is It?”

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and a relaxing day-after. Do leave a comment and let me know if you did anything for Boxing Day. Or if you plan to do anything even a few days late. I will box a number of things up to donate to our local food pantry at a church that supports the needs in our community. 

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