Today is Boxing Day in Canada. When I was growing up, this , like Christmas Day, was a statutory holiday and no businesses were allowed to be open. That changed over time – mainly because of demand from the public. You see, Boxing Day is pretty much the Canadian equivalent of Black Friday in the US. It is the day when all of the Christmas items go on sale for 50% off or more along with many popular items (I suppose that were overstocked for the holidays) such as electronics, CD’s/DVD’s, and more. In the past, stores knew that they would do such a great business on Boxing Day that despite the law forbidding it, they would open nonetheless. The profit they would make far outweighed the fines imposed by the government for violating the law and eventually, the law was changed to allow the stores to open legally.
Stores generally open very early in the morning and people often are lined up around the store waiting for it. Many have to hire special extra security to handle the rush and some have policies whereby they only allow a certain number of customers in at a time to try to control things. Stores have also changed their return policy. Boxing Day was traditionally a day when people would return or exchange their damaged or unwanted Christmas gifts but now the crowds who are there in search of bargains are so large that stores can’t deal with sales AND returns all on the same day.
I personally don’t brave the Boxing Day crowds. Sure there are some great bargains out there (although I find that many people are just sucked into believing the hype and that the “deals” are not really as great as they seem – I find I do better on most items by shopping all year long and looking for the best deals as they occur – in addition, many stores are starting to deal with the flagging economy and decreased profits at Christmas time by beginning their bargains a few days before the holiday) but the crowds and the traffic can be insane. I am not a person who likes shopping in the first place and crowded stores make me very uncomfortable. I once had to take my niece out to spend a gift card she got for Christmas on Boxing Day as she wanted to take advantage of the sale prices and we spent over an hour simply waiting for a parking spot outside Old Navy! No thanks. There’s no bargains out there great enough for me to go through that! Most Boxing Day sales last for a week anyway – sure some things may be sold out but I’d rather risk it.
But, what does Boxing Day really mean anyway? Well, it certainly was not established as a day for an orgy of consumer shopping! Boxing Day was a holiday established to celebrate the Feast of Saint Stephen. You know, St. Stephen? From the song? “Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen”? St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr and is associated with the practice of collecting alms for the poor. The song is about a King in the Middle Ages who gives food to the poor the day after Christmas. Boxing Day became the day when the collections boxes used for collecting money for the poor in the churches were opened and distributed. It also became a tradition that on Boxing Day servants were given the day off to be at home and celebrate with their families. And on this day servants and service workers were given their holiday tips or boxes of food, clothing, and other needed items. Boxing Day became an official holiday in England under Queen Victoria’s reign. In some places now, it has become seen also as an additional special day for families and friends to gather and celebrate the holidays, often with outdoor sports such as hunting and horse racing.