December 26, 2006
Happy Boxing Day and Re-gifting Day
It's the 26th today and there are two things on my mind: Boxing Day and re-gifting. Most Americans do not celebrate or observe Boxing Day, but Canadians do, as well as everyone in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and many Southern African countries.
It's also known as "St. Stephen's Day" in Ireland named after the first saint to be martyred for his death. St. Stephen is the patron saint of horses, so there are often horse races and hunting trips planned for the day.
One blogger calls Boxing Day "the holiday for which nobody knows the origins." Another says the origins of Boxing Day are a bit vague, but stems from the fact that the alms boxes of the church were opened for the poor, or for servants. They were given gift boxes of dry goods or food from their employers.
In most countries that observe Boxing Day, yearly seasonal gifts to public service people like refuse collectors and postmen, and to domestic employees are called "Christmas Boxes." These gifts were traditionally received on the day after Christmas because they would be expected to work on Christmas day.
Boxing Day does not refer to "throwing out boxes" or fighting.
Across the pond, most Americans will be setting aside certain presents received from Santa for re-gifting. Yes, I said “most” of us will be doing this. The numbers don't lie: if you are an American you are probably a re-gifter, according to a recent poll, making Christmas one big swap meet.
Americans re-gift with such vehemence that I wonder if we shouldn't drop all pretense and name this day "Re-gifting Day." Re-gifting is giving an unwanted gift to somebody else for another occasion. It's like giving that yogurt maker you got as a birthday present from a family member to your co-worker as a housewarming gift. Re-gifting was a term made popular as Seinlanguage (words and phrases invented on the TV show Seinfeld that have become common language).
Beware, though. There are strict re-gifting rules for you to follow as you squirrel away that fondue set.
There's there's even a web site called Regiftable.com where you can get the low down on quick, easy, efficient re-gifting (first rule: do not re-gift to the original giver and, second, make sure all traces of the original gift wrap have been removed).
Even The Emily Post Institute has thoughts on re-gifting, and the bottom line is that it's OK if done properly and discreetly.
So, Happy Boxing Day and Re-gifting Day, world.
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