British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

Dec. 26.]                  st, Stephen's DAY.                               493
Christmas Boxes is a term now applied to gifts of money at Christmas given away on St, Stephen's Day, commonly called Boxing Day, whereas, anciently, it signified the boxes in which gifts were deposited. These boxes closely re­sembled the Roman Paganalia, for the reception of con­tributions at rural festivals; from which custom, with certain changes, is said to have been derived our Christmas Boxes. At Pompeii have been found earthen boxes, in which money was slipped through a hole. Aubrey found one filled with Roman denarii,—Timbs' Something for Everybody, 1861, p. 152; see N. & Q. 3rd S. vol. xi. pp. 65, 107, 164, 245; see also Fosbroke's Enclyclopeedia of Antiquities, 1840, p. 662.
In Bedfordshire there formerly existed a custom of the poor begging the broken victuals the day after Christmas Day.-Times Telescope, 1822, p. 298.
It is stated in the Parliamentary Returns in 1786, that some land, then let at 12Z. per annum, was given by Sir Hugh Kite for the poor of the parish of Clifton Reynes. It appears from a book, in the custody of the minister, dated 1821, compiled by an antiquary for a history of the county, that the rector holds a close of pasture-ground called Kites, which had been formerly given to support a lamp burning in the church of Cli ton Reynes, but which was subject to a charge of finding one small loaf, a piece of cheese, and a pint of ale to every married person, and half-a-pint for every unmarried person, resident in Clifton on the feast of St. Stephen, when they walked in the parish boundaries in Rogation week. The close was the rectory in the 12th of Elizabeth.— Old English Customs and Charities, 1842, p. 120.
There was formerly a custom in the parish of Drayton Beauchamp called Stephening. All the inhabitants used to go on St. Stephen's Day to the rectory, and eat as much bread and cheese and drink as much ale as they chose at the expense of the rector.
Previous Contents Next