In a growing Boxing Day tradition, now those of the “lower classes” have the gift of no longer getting the day off.
Boxing Day, a holiday in Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, was historically the day those on the lower rungs of the class ladder got to celebrate. It was, in effect, the servants (or serving class) Xmas. Sometimes gifts were given by employers (masters?) to honor service well done. Gifts were not expected in return as this would muddy the class lines. As the article at Snopes details, Boxing Day “was about preserving class lines,” and, for a person of lower status to give a gift to someone of higher status would be a slight.
However, in more recent times, the holiday (at least in my experience of it while living in the UK for seven years) has morphed into an extension of Xmas – or, another day to eat and drink oneself silly while spending time with friends and family. Also, as so many have extended/divorced/multiple families to see over the holidays, it allows another day to make the family rounds. It also allows for another day of that renowned tradition – holiday telly – classic movies, holiday specials, and the like.
When I lived in the UK in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, it was still not treated as a “shopping day.” Most stores where we lived were not open. Yet, with consumerism strengthening its stranglehold on the globe, Boxing Day is becoming yet another holiday that is giving in to the “we live to shop” paradigm. As the UK Telegraph reports, this year 200 extra shops will open to add to the already huge trend (over a 1,000 ‘big box’ stores) that no longer remain closed in honor of the day.
This trend to open stores all the time is ubiquitous here in the USA (or, United Shoppers of America). I remember, though, when stores were closed on Thanksgiving, Xmas Eve, Xmas Day, Easter, etc. Alas, now you can find something open pretty much any hour of any day. Sucky thing is, the peeps that have to work on the holidays at the places that are open, such as gas stations, convenience marts, grocery stores, etc, they are the very same peeps who are already on the shit end of the ladder.
I wish we would go back to closing stores once in a damn while. If you forget the sage for the stuffing, tough luck, you should NOT be able to find a place to purchase it on Xmas day. And while not everyone celebrates all holidays, and many are problematically Christian biased, it is nice to have some days of the year where we shut down our work brains and celebrate for a day.
Though I am not much of a Madonna fan, I agree with her song “Holiday” that claims we need to take a holiday and celebrate. I think, in fact, we should have some days entitled “Holiday” with no religious baggage attached or no dead white President to celebrate. I use all holidays in this way already – as days to celebrate the people, food, and, yes, drinks, I love.
I wish, though, that there was a way to make holidays more equitable along class lines — and gender, race, and sexuality lines for that matter! Bringing back carnivals (Bakhtinian style) would be a start. These pre-capitalist celebrations were about breaking away from societal norms and subverting rule-bound practices. Unfortunately, consumer capitalism has turned merry-making into excuses to buy more stuff. To prove this never ending imperative to shop, my email inbox today is flooded with news about sales, 75% off closeouts, and best prices of the year… And this is with a high junk filter! Why in the F would I need to shop like there is no tomorrow the day after the most consumer driven holiday of the year?!?
So, sadly, consumer capitalism is now having its way with Boxing Day – but instead of “preserving class lines” by giving the “servants” of the world the day off, now the “servants” get the same old shit – another day of work.
For those who don’t have to “serve” on this day, they should resist this revamping of the holiday by REFUSING to shop. As a person with winter break privilege (a great perk of academia), I have many days off over the holiday season. And, even though I am stateside now, I WON’T be shopping on Boxing Day. Instead, it will be leftover scotch eggs, sausage rolls, trifle and plenty BBC America all washed down with the best drink of all, Magner’s Irish Cider (which makes taking down the tree and trimmings a bit more bearable… )
Happy Boxing Day everyone, and here’s to obliterating, rather than preserving, class lines. And, to NOT living to shop!