Learning English with Holidays: December 26
The 26th of December is more than just the day after Christmas Day. It is also an important holiday in itself.
In England and many Commonwealth countries (Australia, New Zealand), it is called Boxing Day. This is because, traditionally, December 26 was the day people filled metal boxes with money for the poor outside churches. It was also the day employers put Christmas presents in boxes for their employees.
In Ireland, December 26 is called St. Stephens Day, after Saint Stephen who is said to have been the first Christian martyr on this day.
December 26 is also known as the Day of the Wren in some Celtic countries. The wren, a small, grey, songbird, was traditionally hunted and killed first and then brought from house to house by children in costume collecting money. There is no clear explanation about where this custom comes from but some people say that the wren is hunted because it was said to have betrayed baby Jesus by telling Roman soldiers that he was staying in the stable in Bethlehem on December 26. As such the wren has been historically considered a bird disliked by Christians.
In the 21st century few people in urban areas observe this tradition. However, there are certain customs that remain on this day:
– December 26 is one of the most important days for horse racing in England and Ireland. Many people spend this day at the race tracks, placing bets on horse races.
– It is also an important day for sports with football, rugby and cricket matches taking place, traditionally against local rivals so that fans do not have to travel far so soon after Christmas.
– December 26 is a busy important shopping day. Many stores start their sales today and sell winter clothes at reduced prices to make room for new spring stock.
– While December 25 is spent with close family, December 26 is a day for inviting people who are on their own or without families to dinner. Many people who have lost spouses or parents during the year get an invitation from another family in the neighborhood to spend the day with them.
– Since it was on this day historically that employees received their Christmas boxes from employers, it is on December 26 day that many employees still receive their Christmas bonus (or extra pay).
– In keeping with the same tradition, many people leave gifts for regular visiting tradespeople (milkmen, binmen etc) on this day.
Whatever you do today, enjoy it. Have you got more traditions for December 26? We’d love to hear them!