Canadian Packaging

Boxing Day

Andrew Joseph   

General Boxing Day Charles Dickens Origins of Boxing Day

A look at the origins of Boxing Day and how boxes - packaging - were actually involved.


hen I first started this job nearly 10 years ago, all I knew about packaging was that the job probably involved me writing a lot about cardboard boxes.

Obviously I was wrong. Not only are they not called “cardboard” boxes, but rather corrugated boxes. and that the concept of packaging represented multiple levels of ingeniousness that I have been privy to such as robotics, virtual reality, laser holograms to the more ‘normal’ but equally important factors of labels, coding, detection systems, visual cameras, safety curtains, baggers, weighers, sorters, palletizers and pallets, paperboard, converters, containers of various content, pneumatics, electronics, motors, gears, controls, drives, conveyors, marketing, advertising, branding, design, food safety, sustainability – holy smokes, and so much more!!!

So, since it’s Christmas time – or whatever holiday time you choose to celebrate – let’s take a brief look, not at Christmas itself, but rather at Boxing Day.

Nowadays, it’s just that extra holiday that comes after Christmas, but once, not all that long ago, it was a holiday that mean a little bit more, especially to those in the Canada, U.K., Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other Commonwealth nations, as well as Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden. Those last three surprised me, for some reason.

While I grew up to realize that this date, Boxing Day, was also my parent’s wedding anniversary, they taught me that it was also day that was special to servants and tradespeople.

Granted, the concept of ‘servant’ still exists, but is not as common as it once was, but there was also a time when tradespeople worked on Christmas Day.

You might recall the following scene from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.
“To-day?” replied the boy.  “Why, Christmas Day.”
“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself.  “I haven’t missed it.  The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like.  Of course they can.  Of course they can.  Hallo, my fine fellow!”
“Hallo!” returned the boy.
“Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.
“I should hope I did,” replied the lad.
“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge.  “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they”ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there — Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”
“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.
“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge.  “It’s a pleasure to talk to him.  Yes, my buck.”
“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.
“Is it?” said Scrooge.  “Go and buy it.”

Yes, old Scroogie had the boy go out and buy a bird ON Christmas day… people shopped daily at one time owing to a lack of proper refrigeration for most… long before we achieved packaged products with shelf dates that would seem to Scrooge et al as though the Ghost of Christmas Future was a brilliant time after all.

On this date, from sometime in the 1600s on up, the head of the household would provide a Christmas box to their servants, who were required to look after the needs of the family on Christmas Day at the expense of spending time with the servant’s own family.

While it is possible that these Christmas boxes might contain a financial Christmas bonus, it would contain gifts and usually leftover Christmas foods.

Of course, there is the other possibility that Boxing Day also comes from a much earlier time in the late Roman/early Christian times back when Alms Boxes at churches were used to collect charitable donations for the poor.

What we know as December 26 is also the Feast Of Saint Stephen, and these Alms Boxes were tied to this date and holy day – basically, after everyone of means is looked after on Christmas Day, Boxing Day would look after everyone else.

Nowadays, Boxing Day is a Bank Holiday that everyone comes to consider as an expected holiday, rather than as a time of helping the less fortunate. Of course… it’s a holiday for everyone EXCEPT the tradespeople (and those involved in the public transportation industry).

Nowadays, it’s the time when stores offer everyone bargain sales to sell off all the stuff no one wanted to buy before Christmas… Some frugal people even wait until this date to purchase their holiday presents, which would suck if you are a kid not getting anything on X-mas.

So… nowadays, Boxing Day isn’t even about giving the tradespeople a break.

While most people seem to have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, they also have completely forgotten the true meaning of Boxing Day!

Keep that in mind, this holiday season, and may treat the tradespeople nicely – it is supposed to be their day, too.

From boxes to Christmas presents or whatever you choose to celebrate or not celebrate, thank you for visiting Canadian Packaging, and we look forward to serving all your packaging industry information needs in 2015 and beyond.

Andrew Joseph
Canadian Packaging
Features Editor


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