I don’t have many lines extending back to England, Canada, or the former British Empire countries. But from time to time I have seen references to Boxing Day with respect to England, etc. I casually wondered what it was all about, but never enough to research it.
On Christmas Day, Dick Eastman posted an explanation in his Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter, aka EOGN, which I pass along here:
Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated on the day following Christmas Day in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations. Boxing Day occurs on 26 December, although the attached bank holiday or public holiday may take place either on that day or a day later.
The term “Christmas-box” dates back to the 17th century, and among other things meant:
A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.
In Britain, it was a custom for tradespeople to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for 19 December 1663. This custom is linked to an older British tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food.
Further details are available on Wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day.
Duh. Of course, I could have looked it up on Wikipedia. I guess that shows how “casual” my interest was in knowing what Boxing Day was all about. Now I know. Thanks, Dick Eastman!