Monday, December 25, 2006


So how was your Christmas or whatever it is you celebrate at this time of the year? Did you get everything you wanted? Lots of returns? Did the special someone in your life buy you cologne that gives new meaning to the term eau du toilette?

Here in Canada the day following Christmas Day is the one day of the year feared by retail sales clerks accross this great land of the maple leaf known by Canadians everywhere as Boxing Day. In fact there are probably clock-watching sales clerks biting their nails and counting down the hours and minutes until store opening time. They know that the minute the doors to their stores open up, they will be assailed with return items. This is "the" day where your bill of purchase will get you the gift you really wanted.

The line ups at the cash are monumentous and some electronic stores feature ridiculous specials at ridiculous prices with people lining up the night before to take advantage of the bargains. The parking lots turn into zoos and it's not unusual for shoppers walking to pick up their cars to be followed by a lengthy cortege of ve-hi-cles waiting to grab a prime spot. A prime spot is anywhere within a 2 minute walk to a mall entrance. We're also talking here about a four-way-confrontation and a game of "chicken" between cars to grab prime spots, not to mention "let's-sound-our-horns-as-loud-as-possible-to-show-how-tough-we-are" ploy.

In the way of background information according to the Heritage Canada site, "The day after Christmas, the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is better known as Boxing Day. The term may come from the opening of church poor boxes that day; maybe from the earthenware boxes with which boy apprentices collected money at the doors of their masters' clients. Nowadays, we often see, in certain families, gifts (boxes) given to those who provide services throughout the year."

Another source, Wikipedia, provides this information: "Commonwealth observance: Boxing Day in the UK is traditionally a day for sporting activity, originally fox hunting, but in modern times football and horse racing. Boxing Day (in French, lendemain de Noël day after Christmas) is also observed as a public holiday in Commonwealth countries, and is a day when stores sell their excess Christmas inventory at significantly reduced prices. Boxing Day has become so important for retailers that they often extend it into a "Boxing Week". This occurs similarly in Australia and New Zealand, although some Australian states, including New South Wales are tightening restrictions on Boxing Day retail trading[2], deferring the post-Christmas sales to December 27. In Australia, a test match starting on December 26th is called the Boxing Day Test Match, and is played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground before, what is typically, the largest crowd of the summer. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is also started on this day.In Northern Ireland, all Premier League clubs in soccer-football play their biggest rivals. The most popular one is Glentoran v. Linfield, between the two biggest clubs in the country.European observance:Boxing Day is a holiday of peculiarly British origin, but in most years it falls on the same day as the Feast of St. Stephen (St. Stephen's Day - 26th December).In Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden, the 26th is known as the Second day of Christmas (der zweite Weihnachtsfeiertag in Germany; Annandag Jul in Sweden; Andre Juledag in Norway; Tweede Kerstdag in the Netherlands; Annar dagur jóla in Iceland; Tapaninpäivä (St. Stephen's Day) in Finland; Karácsony másnapja in Hungary) and is also a public holiday.In Ireland, the 26th December is known as St Stephen's Day, or Wren's Day; in Austria it is called Stefanitag, in Italy Santo Stefano; in Wales, it is known as Gŵyl San Steffan (St. Stephen's Holiday). In Catalonia, this day is known as Sant Esteve, Catalan for St. Stephen. A practice known as Hunt the Wren is still practiced by some in the Isle of Man, where people thrash out wrens from hedgerows. Traditionally they were killed and their feathers presented to households for good luck. In Ireland, children used to kill a wren, then take its body from door-to-door, begging for money which they would use (supposedly) to pay for the bird's funeral. In Germany the days between Christmas and new year are called "the days between the years" (zwischen den Jahren) and becoming more and more important for retailers to clear the unsold Christmas goods.Canadian observanceIn Canada, Boxing Day is observed as a holiday, except for those in the retail business. Boxing Day and the days immediately following are when many retail stores sell their Christmas and retired model products by holding clearance sales. Some shoppers will line up for hours at night (sometimes before midnight and after midnight on December 26) for retailers to open their doors. Except in Quebec, Retailers often open their stores earlier than usual, such as 6 or 7 am. Some retail companies internally refer to the sales week after Christmas as the "thirteenth month." (See Boxing Week.) It is similar to Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) in the United States. Boxing Day 2005 was the single largest economic transaction day ever in the history of Canadian commerce (according to Visa). Individual big box stores can even gross over $1,000,000(CAN) on one single boxing day. However, in a few cities retail stores are still not permitted to open on Boxing Day because of municipal regulations; in those cities, Boxing Day sales begin on December 27."

Personally, I think that Boxing Day got its name from people trying to secure a place in line at the return counter.

Rather than fight the crowds a better or more efficient idea would be to do a gift exchange with people standing in the return line.

"Attention everyone in line!" a return-ee might yell out. "I have a beautiful wool-like scarf with a red snowman motif, which I'm willing to part with for a pair of mitts. Anyone?"

"I might be interested," someone else could yell out. "How about trading it for a pair of hand-knit-by-my-mother-in-laws-own-hands wool gloves with two extra fingers on the right hand?"

At least it will help pass the time if nothing else plus there's the added benefit of having one less gift to give for the next year. Did I mention I have a pair of glow-in-the-dark earrings bought by an acquaintance while vacationing in Roswell? Do we have a deal? Please?

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