Today, December 26th, is the First Day of the Twelve Days of Christmas. These days December 26th means Christmas is over to most people, but in the Middle Ages there was still almost two weeks of Christmas left!
Churches circulated donation boxes amongst the congregation during Advent, and those boxes and their contents were distributed amongst the poor on the First Day of Christmas, otherwise known as Boxing Day.
Several countries still celebrate Boxing Day - including Scotland, Ireland, Australia and Canada. In some Canadian provinces Boxing Day is a statutory holiday when all workers are given a mandatory day off with full pay. In the countries that still celebrate Boxing Day, it is much like the day after Thanksgiving in the United States - a huge shopping day. Which is really ironic given the historical bases for the holiday.
I would like to see a tradition start where instead of running out to hit the after Christmas sales, or running out to return and exchange gifts, Boxing Day made a real come back. This year I plan to take a good inventory of our home and donate items that we no longer need or use to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Why not have Boxing Day be the day that you give each member of your household a box and ask them to fill it with things to donate to charity? You could spend Boxing Day volunteering at a soup kitchen. Or donate some money to a charitable organization? It is easy to get wrapped up in the season, but this time of year should really be a time to realize how lucky we are to have warm families and warm homes, and to think of and do something for those who are not as fortunate.