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Boxing Day Guest Blog by Author Angus Donald

We are thrilled to have one of our favorite authors Guest Blog for us today! Thank you, Angus Donald!




By Angus Donald

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen, when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even . . .

“Good King Wenceslas” is one of my favourite carols; I belt it out in a freezing English country church, my breath pluming before my face, almost every Christmas. And yet, while I’ve been singing it for forty years now, today, when I began doing research for this blog, I realised something about the old carol that had never occurred to me before: “Good King Wenceslas” is not so much about Christmas but about Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is the term used in the United Kingdom for the day after Christmas Day – the 26th of December, a public holiday. It is celebrated in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and in many former British colonies around the world but not, as far as I know, in America. Its origins are disputed – some speak of church alms boxes in medieval times which were opened by the priest and the coins within distributed to the poor at this time – but most probably the etymology of Boxing Day lies in the old feudal tradition that the lord of the manor should give gifts to his servants on this day. A “box” was a gift given by a superior to an inferior. In the 19th century, the rich who lived in grand houses would allow their servants to have the day off on the 26th of December (after they had cooked, served and cleared up the great Christmas Day feast) in order to visit their families, and the workers would be given “Christmas boxes” containing gifts of money or food to take to their less well-off relatives. Indeed, Victorian department stores sold ready-made parcels for employers to buy and give out their servants.

The tradition lives on in some 21st century British companies in the form of a Christmas bonus, and in the still-extant custom in Britain of giving tradesmen who regularly visit the house – such as the milkman, the postman, the “binmen” (rubbish-disposal people) or the paper-boy – a small cash gift on Boxing Day as a thank-you for the year’s work.

In modern Britain, Boxing Day, an official holiday enjoyed by everyone in the country, is marked by a number of important sporting contests: football (you would say soccer) matches, horse racing events, and even fox hunting meets – although pursuing foxes has been illegal in Britain since 2004 and the hounds now follow a running man dragging a scented bag. Nevertheless, the traditional Boxing Day sight of all those hearty riders on huge glossy horses – the mounts stamping and champing in the cold air, the men marvelously bold in their scarlet coats, sipping hot mulled wine and calling out to old friends before the excitement of the hunt begins – always gives me the warm feeling that I have slipped a couple of hundred years into the past.


In my family, Boxing Day is the day of the Big Walk: after gorging on Christmas Day on roast turkey, cranberry sauce, hot gravy, roast potatoes and vegetables, and Christmas pudding with brandy butter and cheese and nuts and chocolate (not all on the same plate, I hasten to add) everybody feels like taking a bit of exercise the day afterwards and so we stir ourselves on the morning of the 26th, wrap up warmly and walk for ten miles or so around the frosty (sometimes snowy) Kentish countryside – before collapsing in front of the TV as the daylight fades, and gorging again on a late lunch of cold turkey, cranberry sauce, glazed ham, cold potatoes, cheese, chocolate . . .

For many people in the UK, Boxing Day is a shopping holiday, much like the day after Thanksgiving in the USA. Shops often offer huge discounts on normally expensive household products in the sales which begin on Boxing Day, and Britons turn out in their millions to snap up bargains. In 2009, 12 million UK residents attended the post-Christmas sales – which is twenty per cent of the total population! The queues stretch around the block as people patiently wait for the stores to open; and when they do pandemonium ensues. Injuries sustained in the stampede are not uncommon.



But it would be a shame if, in the commercially-minded 21st century, we forgot that Boxing Day was originally a day on which those who have plenty give to those who are in need; we should remember that Boxing Day it is also Saint Stephen’s day, the Feast of Stephen mentioned in my favourite carol. Wenceslaus – who was in fact a 10th century Duke of Bohemia – ventured out on the Feast of Stephen to give a poor man food and wine and winter fuel; personifying the true spirit of Boxing Day.

“Therefore Christian men be sure, wealth or rank possessing, ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.”






Below are Angus Donald’s Books



And his newest, Warlord, due out in July 2013


To read more about Angus Donald, and his book series The Outlaw Chronicles, about the legendary hero Robin Hood, visit his web-site, www.angus-donald.com.

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7 Responses to “Boxing Day Guest Blog by Author Angus Donald”

  1. James L. (JimiJam) says:

    I love singing Good King Wenceslas, the idea of Boxing Day, as well as this brilliant blog post!

  2. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    Yay! I can’t say how happy I am that authors take the time to contribute to our blog at PBS Thank you Angus.

    And folks even if your not history buffs, these book are GREAT!! Pick them up, I believe the PBS market place has Outlaw and Holy Warrior. I just purchased Kings Man (import) But it will be available in July in the US, or so I am told.

  3. Vicky T. (VickyJo) says:

    Angus, thank you so much for taking the time to blog here for us on PBS. I’ve always heard of Boxing Day, but never had a clear understanding of its meaning or origins. I do have to say that I instinctively feel like shopping today, rather than the day after Thanksgiving; good to know I’m not entirely alone.

    I love the cover art for Warrior! I have your first three books (which I’m saving for when I become snowed in this winter) thanks to our mutual friend Jeanne. She is a one-woman marketing team!! 😉

    Thanks again for participating here, and may your New Year be free of writer’s block!

  4. Bonnie (LoveNE) , says:

    Angus, What a generous man you must be to take the time to blog for us! Thank you for your time and insight…

  5. Toni C. says:

    this was a good read and helped clear up the term. I have been reading One Hundred Dollar Christmas by Bill Kibben and it has some good historical points in it about why Santa looks the way he does (Clement Moore) and why Christmas had to toned down into an acceptable family holiday..this was acheived by marketing of course..

  6. Jeanne L. (bkydbirder) , says:

    Thank you Angus! Anytime you choose to make an appearance here at PBS, it is really appreciated. Your input is always enlightening – and very entertaining as well!

    Thanks Letty for inviting my favorite author to share with us on this blog!

  7. Angus Donald says:

    Hi guys,
    Thanks for all your very kind comments – I’m feeling very stiff after a massive walk on Boxing Day (and a tiny little bit hungover, too!) but I also have that toasty-achey glow you get after a really decent bit of exercise. I love this quiet, dull period between Christmas and New Year; I’m not trying to write anything, just relaxing and reading a few of the books I got in my stocking (do you guys do Christmas stockings?) and picking at an enormous and very rich Christmas cake that my wife made. Happy new year to all of you – I hope 2012 brings you all that you wish for – and more! Angus

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