Who knows for sure if the stories are true. The tales recounting the origins of the Boxing Day lunch have been told and re-told so many times that the truth is buried somewhere between England and Wales. Some researchers feel Boxing Day is a result of servants who were required to work on Christmas Day, but fortunately had the following day off. As the legend goes, when the servants were readying themselves to leave and finally spend time with their families, their supervisors would give them a small box with a gift inside. Hopefully, it wasn't a pink slip. Was the gift overtime pay? A lump of coal? A piece of cheese? The working class was treated so abysmally poor, that you have to wonder exactly what type of gift it was exactly.
Another tale connected to the Boxing Day lunch has it that boxes were placed in churches throughout England as a means of collected donations for the poor. On the day after Christmas - also recognized as the Feast of St. Stephen -- parish parishioners would open the boxes and distribute to the poor the contents inside.
Somewhere along the line, the Boxing Day lunch evolved into a more standard occasion of gift-giving. The intention being to give gifts to public servants who have rendered service during the previous 12 months. For example, Boxing Day 2004 existed in this capacity, as today people present gifts to public servants like postmen, porters and others of this ilk. For example, the postman who delivers the mail in snow, sleet, rain or storm might merit a gift. The plumber who unclogged your sink might merit an extra shilling or two.
Boxing Day 2004 was celebrated in Great Britain and in other territories settled by the English, to include Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. And exception to this rule is the United States, which does not recognize Boxing Day or the Boxing Day lunch. Boxing Day is always recognized on the first weekday following Christmas.
The Boxing Day lunch is also one of several recognized British bank holidays. A government holiday that has been recognized since 1871. Boxing Day is observed by most government offices including banks and post offices. Other bank holidays include Christmas, Easter and Good Friday.
Speaking of the Boxing Day lunch and it's correlation with the Feast of St. Stephen, this holy day also falls on the 26th of December. St. Stephen was renowned as one of the original seven deacons of the Christian Church, and ordained by the Apostles to care for poor and destitute. St. Stephen was wildly successful with those who followed him. For those who weren't, St. Stephen's preaching and devotion resulted in him being stoned to death by an unruly mob.
A Boxing Day test of skill with a firearm is one of the highlights of this day. Hunters across England get a chance to hunt within the law and show their defiance of the Hunting Act. Thus, the Boxing Day lunch test is more of a swap meet for hunters and their dogs and less a chance to kill wild animals.
The Boxing Day lunch has come a long way since its still not-quite-explained humble beginnings. But any occasion that results in a day off and a chance to show appreciation for job well done deserves to be continued every year.