Boxing Day is December 26th, and is an annual national holiday in Jamaica. If it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday is celebrated on a Monday, like it is this year.
There are all sorts of stories as to where it originated. All we know for sure is that it started with the British, and given our colonial history, we kept it. And, that’s fine with us because we love holidays.
Some say that it was the day when all the boxes from the Christmas presents were dealt with.
Some say the leftovers from the Christmas meal was put in boxes and given to the poor.
Some say the elite, including slave masters, would give their workers the day after Christmas off and would maybe give them left-over food which was boxed up and parceled out.
Others suggest that it had more charitable origins. Sailors who were fortunate enough to return from sea often made donations to the local church. These boxes with the donations, usually coins, were opened on Boxing Day and given to the poor.
There is one version where two prisoners are allowed to compete in a boxing match and the winner got his freedom. That one is a clear lie might have been something told to tourists or children to see if they would believe the tall tale. So don’t fall for it if someone tells you that one.
Since this started in England and really is only celebrated in their colonies or former colonies, they would be the best ones to know its origins. Read about Boxing Day in England here.
Unlike in the US where the day after Christmas is a major sale day, Boxing Day in Jamaica is usually very quiet. Many Jamaicans spend time with family and friends.
Many flock to the beaches. So, if you don’t like crowds, this is not a good day to go to the beach.
Do not expect any business to be done on Boxing Day in Jamaica. It is a holiday. Most stores are closed, even some grocery stores. Those that are open have limited hours.
The rule is, do all business, including food shopping before December 24th because it is not until the day after Boxing Day, December 27th, that most stores will resume regular hours.
Here is one more thing that I remember about Boxing Day in Jamaica. It marked the beginning of the theatre season, in particular, the National Pantomime season.
The first pantomime was Jack and the Beanstalk in 1941 and opened on Boxing Day, as was the custom in England.
Back in the day, it used to be at the Ward Theatre in Downtown Kingston, a rather grand edifice, which certainly should qualify as a National Treasure. The Pantomime’s home is now the Little Theatre in New Kingston.
Jamaica Pantomime is a colorful combination of music and dancing with elaborate sets and costumes, even on a low budget. My recollection is of it being largely satirical, with much commentary directed at popular figures and current events. I doubt that someone who is unfamiliar with Jamaica would get all the nuances because so much of it is done in patois and many jokes depend on some familiarity with the culture.
This season’s play is The Upsies and de Downzies dem. I have not been able to find out what it is about; but, I’m hoping I will be able to take in a show before it ends in May 2017.
So enjoy the rest of the holiday!
Think and dream Jamaica!
Til next time,
Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian
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Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tenis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!