Anne here, and it's the 26th of December — St Stephen's Day, and traditionally the occasion in England where church alms boxes were opened and the contents distributed between the poor of the parish. It's the day when Good King Wenceslas gave the poor man meat, wine and wood — "on the feast of Stephen."
It's also called Boxing Day, and this term is still used today in the UK, Australia, Canada, NZ and other commonwealth countries. In Regency times, this was the day when the affluent folk presented servants and tenants and the local poor with "Christmas Boxes."
In practice this could range from money, leftover food from the Christmas feast, to discarded clothing, and all sorts. It's the origin of the Christmas bonus and the custom of leaving out out small gifts for those who deliver to our homes — the paperboy, the postman, the milkman etc. It was also a day when servants who'd been kept busy on Christmas Day could have a day off to celebrate Christmas with their own families.
But for aristocrats, it was also a day for hunting, donning the "pink" coats and heading out in the crispy dawn to hunt down a hapless fox. (Yes, the coats are actually red, but those in the know refer to the colour as pink, I know not why.) These days fox hunting is banned in the UK, and "drag hunting" has replaced it, though illegal hunts still take place.
In Australia, the UK, parts of Canada, NZ, Trinidad and Tobago, this tradition continues, only without horses, hounds or foxes. It's the noble sport of Bargain Hunting! Most stores have massive sales on Boxing Day – the shops will open at crack of dawn and there will be a huge feeding frenzy as shoppers go wild over bargains.
For others it's a day for sport — or rather it's a relaxed day watching others play sport. In Australia it's cricket — the start of the international test match — playing against countries like England, India, the West Indies, NZ, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Cricket is a passion with many Australians, and the tradition of going to the Boxing Day match in Melbourne, at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) is long and beloved here. In many families the men go to the cricket while the women hit the shops.
It will be interesting to see how this goes with all our CoVid restrictions.
It's also the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
In the UK it's football and horse racing. In Barbados, the final day of horse racing is held on Boxing Day at The Historic Garrison Savannah, a UNESCO world heritage site.
In Canada and some European countries, ice-hockey rules and several major world contests are begun. In Sweden, it's the start of the Bandy season (a very fast ice-hockey variant.) In some places, eg Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, and Italy they actually (gasp!) have professional boxing matches on Boxing Day.
But for a lot of people, Boxing Day is the day to pack up some yummy Christmas leftovers and head to the beach, for the day or longer. It's summertime here, and since most of the major cities are coastal, the beach is close by. And since it's also the long summer holidays for schools, most people take this time for their four weeks annual leave. And if cricket is played, it's generally beach cricket. This little illustration by Elizabeth Honey perfectly sums up summers of my childhood.
So how was your Christmas, and what do you usually do on Boxing Day?