Today is Boxing Day, the 26th of December, and the day after Christmas. The day when everyone is supposed to rush out and buy more stuff. The same stuff they were supposed to buy as Christmas gifts, only on sale now. The same stuff they were supposed to buy on Black Friday.
There was a time when I would awaken very early when it was still dark and very cold to rush to different stores where I could score huge discounts on Christmas wrappings and decorations to use the following year. I had a penchant for plaid wrapping paper, always too expensive and hard to find. It was part bargain hunting, but mostly sport, done with daughters and friends.
No more, those days are forever gone. The thought of entering a store the day after Christmas is more repugnant than braving one before it. Other than frequenting independent bookstores, largely for my own sanity and to support them, my pared down Christmas shopping is exclusively online. My writer’s need for solitude grows commensurate with the size of the crowds during the holidays. But even more, the hollering greed blasted in commercials is enough to make me want to tear December out of my calendar.
There is a downside to Internet shopping, despite its convenience. For one, all of the online stores learn your email by necessity. No matter how many times I uncheck the box giving them permission to contact me, I invariably am barraged by daily emails, which escalate into an enormous blob the day after Christmas. I am reminded, scolded, sometimes even warned about the dire consequences I will suffer if I miss this SPECTACULAR SALE. This morning my Internet connection sputtered, flipping on and off, bulging with offers, and making me remember with odd nostalgia those Boxing Day sales I would rush to in person.
The funny thing about Boxing Day is that it has nothing to do with boxing. Its roots are from the 1830s when aristocrats would give their servants the day after Christmas off to visit their families. The wealthy employees, who had been waited on during Christmas Day, would find benevolence toward their help the next day. Employers provided them with boxes of leftover food and goods to share with their families.
I bristle at the thought that my Irish ancestors had to wait for the day after Christmas to celebrate because they were required to serve wealthy people on the holiday. Just as I resent wealthy businesses preying on people everywhere to buy items promising to fill the pockets of unhappiness in the hearts of their loved ones. This ring, this car, this device is the only way to show her or him you love them.
Unplugging the Christmas Machine (a terrific book about reducing holiday stress) was something I did a long time ago. Now I am disconnecting the Boxing Day Machine as well. I’m deleting and unsubscribing at a pace faster than Santa’s sleigh travels.
And I’m thinking more about how some traditions, supposedly steeped in love and kindness, are merely veiled commercial ventures that keep sinking the poor and making the rich richer. I think I’ll write about that.