Q: What is Boxing Day?
A: Every year, I see Boxing Day listed on my calendar for Dec. 26, and every year I’ve wondered what it meant. This year, a reader who said she was peeking ahead at her calendar noticed Boxing Day and asked me what the holiday is about. I figured this is perfect timing to answer that, because the Just Ask column this year happens to fall on the holiday.
Plus, it finally was a chance to find out what the day is all about, myself.
The British Embassy in Washington, D.C., provides a good description of the holiday on its website.
Apparently, Boxing Day is a big holiday in Britain and several other nations. The site explains Boxing Day was started centuries ago on the day after Christmas when the alms boxes of churches were opened and its contents distributed to the poor.
Throughout the years, that custom evolved into “the giving of Christmas boxes,” which were filled with food, money and other items for household servants and public servants such as mail deliverers and garbage collectors, the site states.
In looking at the website, I noticed several other interesting British holidays, but the one that most caught my interest was Pancake Day.
That name captured my attention immediately because it deals with a subject matter I hold near and dear to my heart: food.
Pancake Day, also called Shrove Tuesday, starts 41 days before Easter (which means it always falls on a Tuesday). It’s the traditional feast day before Lent begins, sort of like Fat Tuesday is during Mardi Gras.
Some Christian religions traditionally fast or give up something for Lent, so Pancake Day was created with the notion that this could be the last chance to eat something with eggs and fats, such as — you guessed it — pancakes.
In some parts of Britain, the Pancake Day celebration includes pancake races. According to the site, an event in Buckinghamshire features a 415-yard race by women who are 16 or older. The women must flip a pancake in a frying pan at least three times during the race.
The winner receives a kiss from someone designated as the “Pancake Bell Ringer.” They also receive a prayer book from the vicar.
If you’ve got a question, email it to bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.
, call him at 256-740-5739, fax it to 256-740-4717 or send it to Just Ask, c/o TimesDaily, P.O. Box 797, Florence, AL 35631.