Boxing day is familiar to our European, Canadian, and Australian birding friends, but not as strong a custom in the United States. It is always December 26, and the custom can have several meanings depending on the culture and country. Its oldest origin is in the 1830s, when it was traditional to give servants – both public servants (postmen, milk delivery, trash collection, etc.) as well as private household servants – a Christmas box on this day. That “box” might be a gift, food, or gratuity, often acknowledging that they performed their services even on Christmas Day. Other origins link the day to collecting extra alms and tithings at church during the Feast of St. Stephen (also on December 26).
In modern tradition, the day is often associated with shopping, sales, and deep discounts, similar to Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) in the United States. It is also considered a public holiday or bank holiday in many countries where the tradition continues to be celebrated. Many major sporting events take place on Boxing Day, particularly in soccer, rugby, and cricket, and there are traditional hunts on this day as well.
Put all of these traditions and fun events together, and you certainly have a lot to smile about on Boxing Day! But what’s a bird to do to celebrate? Birds don’t have servants (though we serve them as we clean and refill feeders and baths), they don’t need a public holiday, they don’t go shopping, and they don’t play sports. But they will do what they want, nest box and all!
Happy Boxing Day and best wishes to continue celebrating the holiday season with peace, joy, and goodwill all through the year!