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Yuletide: Understanding the meaning of Boxing Day

Boxing Day celebration comes up on the 26th of December, but have you ever wondered what it means and where the unusual name comes from? Nigeria is identified with whole lots of celebrations which they attend to in a big way – spending big on outing and receiving guests. However some just follow suit without having the deeper knowledge of what they are celebrating.

Many Nigerians celebrate Boxing Day without understanding what it really means, with some giving it their own meaning. There are also many caricatures used representing the day flying all over the social media with pictures of people’s faces punched or pictures of hefty men in a fighting ring.

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To some people, it simply means the day after Christmas when the celebration of the birth of Jesus continues while to others it just means a particular day of the year synonymous with the sport of boxing. All of these however have nothing to do with Boxing Day.

Though arguments abound on the name given the day after Christmas, the origin of the name, Boxing Day, remains unclear. History, too traces the origin to so many places, for example, the European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those in need and in service positions, dating back to the Middle Ages.

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It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

It is also traced to Britain, where it was believed to be a custom for trades’ people to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as expressing thanks for good service throughout the year.

But what do Nigerians say about Boxing Day, our correspondence spoke to some people to know their views: Mr Victor Ikpe who was seen with his family at one of the shopping centres in Abuja on Boxing Day said, it was not too long he understood what the day really meant but he has been part of the annual celebration from childhood.

“We used to think it was all about sport but I recently have the understanding that it is a day you give gifts to people, especially family members, the needy and others.

Parents are supposed to buy gifts for their children and the children too. “These gifts are wrapped in a box and unwrapped the day after Christmas,” he explained.

Mr Ikpe said Boxing Day is a time to spend with family or friends, adding that though his family did not unwrapped any gift, but they are out to make the day a memorable one. “You can see we are happy and having fun,” he added.

Another fun seeker during the Boxing Day celebration, Mrs Chioma Obinna, said all she knows is that Christmas continues, adding that the season is one of joy whether there were gifts or not.

“We are here to thank God for our lives as a family. And again, this is the time of the year when we have time to relax together as family because everybody is available.”

She said she has not really found out the meaning of Boxing Day but only knows that it is holiday season when families go out to have fun together. “And that is a good thing especially for us that are always busy and have little time to spend with the children.

“I am a business woman, I have a shop in the market and my husband is always busy but this is the time of the year where we all stay together, go on special outing with the children.”

Eight-year-old Tomiwa Ogunlade, who defined Boxing Day as a day to love and cherish people around you, added that it is also a day to give gifts to people and share what you have with them.

“My daddy and mummy bought gifts for my sister and we also bought them gifts too. The gifts are wrapped and we are going to open them when we get back home in the evening. I don’t know what they wrapped in the box but I requested for a laptop and my sister wanted a doll. But my sister and I bought card for them.”

Hajiya Rukayya Ibrahim who was also at the children park with her children, said they are in Abuja to celebrate the Christmas with their family members that are Christians. She said Boxing Day is a day that people give gifts to family and friends.

She said it is a day to visit friends and loved ones and to have fun, which is why they are at the park, adding that it is a season of rest from work. “You can see how the children are jumping up and down. They are having so much fun and we are relaxed too.”

The day has become significant with partying, horse races, outdoor games, watching and visit to the cinema. It is a special outing for the children out. Those are the things that make it all fun, Hajiya Rukayya observed.

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