I love vintage images and found a treasure trove of boxer images in an old manual. How much fun would it be to do a play on words and instead of boxing day being about the giving of boxes, it would be about the art of pugilism. I don’t know, that just seemed amusing. I wanted to also tie in the wren and St. Stephen’s day too. The cards were simple, two color gocco prints of the boxers accompanied by a pretty box. (What was inside?)

Because it was a black and white image, I also decided that we would have a coloring contest. We only had a handful of “contenders” but we did give out a vintage irish linen, hand printed boxing towel and a jump rope. It was exciting.

Flash animation is a great way to tell a quick little story, and I put together this “combination” for you all. I gave the boxers names, Father Time V/S Sinter Klaas and called the movie The Main Event is wishing you a happy holiday! The little box seems to be vying for his space in the ring as well. They go about their bare knuckles round in time to the accompanied music, taken from a public domain file of an old popeye cartoon. At the end, they recognize the little box and as they lift it up to take a peek, out flies the wren. Happy St. Stephen’s Day.

In feudal times, Christmas was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. After all the Christmas parties on December 26th, the lord of the estate would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would get a box full of such goods the day after Christmas. Under this explanation, there was nothing voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was obliged to supply these goods. Because of the boxes being given out, the day was called Boxing Day.

In Britain many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day’s work on the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.

In churches, it was traditional to open the church’s donation box on Christmas Day, and the money in the donation box was to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the “box” in “Boxing Day” comes from that one gigantic lockbox in which the donations were left.

The origins of Boxing Day can be traced back to regular punch-ups caused by excessive intake of alcohol by the aristocracy. It became popular and a pastime for families with unsettled issues of wealth and status.

Boxing Day was the day when the wren, the king of birds, was captured and put in a box and introduced to each household in the village when he would be asked for a successful year and a good harvest.

Boxing Day Story

In the north of Ireland, December 26th was celebrated as Boxing Day, which originated from the time when it was traditional for the lord of the manor to give gifts to servants, tradespeople and tenants. In the Republic, the day was altogether something else!

There, it was the feast of St. Stephen or Wren Day. At one time, groups of small boys would hunt for a wren, and then chase the poor bird until they either caught it or it died from exhaustion. It was then tied to the top of a pole or holly bush, which was decorated with ribbons or colored paper. Early in the morning on St. Stephen’s, the wren was carried from house to house by the boys, who wore straw masks or blackened their faces with burnt cork, and dressed in old clothes. At each house, the boys sang the Wren Boys’ song.

Often, those who gave money were given a feather from the wren for good luck and then the money that had been collected was used to hold a dance for the entire village.

There are different legends about the origin of this custom. One is that St. Stephen, hiding from his enemies in a bush, was betrayed by a chattering wren. From that point on, the wren, like St. Stephen, should be hunted down and stoned to death. The pursuit and capture of the wren is also related to the pagan custom of sacrificing a sacred symbol at year’s end. In contrast to the legends of the wren as betrayer, the wren was also revered in Ireland as the “king of all birds.” An Irish folk tale tells of a contest held among birds to see which could fly the highest and should be given the title. The eagle soared higher than any other bird, but lost the contest when a clever wren hid on the back of the eagle, then flew off and soared higher in the sky.

Bridget Haggerty