Guest Columnist By Hammeed Bello
A gifted Ghanaian writer and teacher, Ernest Agyemang Yeboah once witted: “Christmas is joyful for them that have food to be joyful, but food for thought for them that have no food to be joyful.”
The one issue with our age is decline in curiosity especially among the upcoming population of youths. We are becoming less and less inquisitive and adventurous most particularly in the art of learning. We use terms, words and registers that we know near to nothing about, yet we won’t ask questions or pick up studies to know it. It is so rampant that most people answer to a surname they can’t make any attempt to explain its meaning. They will just tell you “that was my grand father’s name. I don’t know what it connotes”.
One will begin to wonder whose duty it is to enquire and ascertain the connotation of a name if not the one who bears it. A full-grown human will spend his/her whole lifetime without knowing the whys and hows of his/her name or surname.
Several other phenomena abound in our clime about which no one in the new age care to research about; like the mnemonic R.S.V.P which is a response request to those who will be honouring an invitation. Africans till today still find themselves inscribing this mnemonic on their invitation cards even when our culture has no place for it.
Another case in question is the concept of “Boxing Day” commemoration. Is it all about wrestling or boxing people on the street as some erroneously hold?
If it is not literally about boxing contest then what is it all about? How did it come about? What does it represent in the third millennium?
We may not know it, yet we won’t ask. Instead, we will hide our face in utter shyness and play along, pretending with others.
This is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is obtainable elsewhere, even in the western hemisphere.
In the words of famous English scholar, Alan Beechey: “Only about twenty seven people in England know why a day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, but that doesn’t stop millions from marking it by staying home from work. An intriguing side effect of thus having two consecutive public holidays is that no matter what days of the week they fall on, the British can easily justify taking the whole week off.”
The rest just observe it as a tradition they grew up to adhere to.
The 26th of December, also known as St. Stephen’s Day is called Boxing Day. It is a public holiday that forms part of the Christmas festivities in most of the countries that were once part of the British Empire (i.e former British colonies and members of Common wealth).
It was originally the first working day after Christmas Day, but is now always celebrated on December 26th, regardless of on which day of the week it falls.
What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Boxing Day’?
‘Christmas boxes’ were originally literal earthenware boxes. In medieval England these boxes were used by the poor (servants, apprentices etc.) to save money throughout the year. At Christmas the boxes were broken open and the savings shared to fund Christmas festivities. This meaning of ‘Christmas box’ dates back to at least the early 17th century.
In a similar tradition, which is almost as old as the above and which is one that has stayed with us until the present day, Christmas boxes are gifts, usually money, given to tradespeople or others who have rendered some service throughout the year but who aren’t normally paid directly by the donor – for example, office cleaners, milkmen etc.
Then it was called “Boxen Day.”
So, why is Boxing Day so called in this modern age? Sporting fixtures, which used regularly to include boxing, have taken place over Christmas holiday season for centuries. The view that Boxing Day was a day for pugilism gets some support via the earliest reference to the name that be can found in history books, and which is in The Sporting Magazine , Volume 25, 1805.
On boxing-day, Dec. 26, a numerous assemblage of the holiday folks were amused by a hard fought battle, in St. Pancras-fields. This fight was one that afforded plenty of diversion to several pugilists and admirers of the art present.
Nevertheless, the link to boxing in that citation is purely co-incidental and the origin of the name is the giving of ‘Christmas box’ gifts to tradespeople, which traditionally took place not on Christmas Day but on the first subsequent working day.
For Stephen Moss, a British natural historian and Television producer: “It is generally accepted that the name derives from the giving of Christmas “boxes”, but the precise nature of those boxes and when they were first dispensed is disputed. One school of thought argues that the tradition began in churches in the Middle Ages. Parishioners collected money for the poor in alms boxes, and these were opened on the day after Christmas in honour of St Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts. 7:54-60) whose feast day falls on 26 December.”
Some suggest the tradition is even older than that, dating back to the Christianised late Roman empire, when similar collections were supposedly made for the poor in honour of St Stephen, but the evidence is sketchy. All we can say for certain is that at some point St Stephen’s Day became associated with public acts of charity.”
Since we are clear that it is actually ‘box-ing’ day (i.e the gerund for wrapping gifts in box) the question shifts to “what are the contents of your boxes today?”
Of course, we are in atomic and terrorism age, so every box package is suspicious, but it won’t stop exchange and expectation of boxes of gifts. What makes the difference is the content. Are you handing out boxes that encased clinched fist, hatred, anger, and their likes; or ones that housed peace and love and its likes?
Many kinds of boxes abound in the century 21 world: frustration, anger, lust gossip and the likes.
But these nevertheless shouldn’t be misconstrued. Box-en day is here again, and genuine gifts and pleasantries are expected and exchanged.
Happy Boxen day 2021 in arrears.