In Jamaica as well as several former British colonies, December 26th is known as Boxing Day. I celebrated Boxing Day for many years before I heard an explanation of its origins. Surprisingly, it isn’t about boxing.
According to the story, Boxing Day got its name from the practice by wealthy British landowners from the Middle Ages of giving their servants, who had to work on Christmas Day, boxes of leftover food and gifts on the day after Christmas. I’m not sure if that tradition was exported to Jamaica during slavery — more than likely it did — but we inherited Boxing Day, which is also a public holiday.
Here, Boxing Day is an extension of joy and revelry of Christmas. Since Christmas Day this year fell on a Sunday, Christmas will be observed on Monday and Boxing Day will be pushed to Tuesday, December 27th.
On Boxing Day, the beaches are crowded, people go from house to house visiting family and friends and sharing Christmas cheer. Typically, large amounts of fruit cake, sorrel, rum, beer, goat soup, curried goat and ham are consumed.
Boxing Day here is also the day when Pantomime, a tradition 70 years old, opens. Pantomime, which was also inherited from Britain, has been totally Jamaicanized and incorporates local folklore, culture and everyday issues.
So, in the true spirit of Boxing Day, I’m off to visit a few friends. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the beach.
Happy Boxing Day!