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The Charitable History of Boxing Day

Tis the season to give… back! Perhaps holiday gifting is fun for you, but for many who struggle to put food on the table, gift-giving simply isn’t an option.
This has been recognized for centuries, and many charitable organizations and traditions exist around the holidays.

Perhaps the most well-established of these is Boxing Day. While it’s become more of a raucous holiday in recent years, its history is deeply rooted in giving back. Traditionally celebrated the day after Christmas, this centuries old tradition may have its roots in the boxes displayed by churches for collecting parishioner donations. Other historians suggest that it dates back to the special gift boxes given to British servants, who usually visited their families on the day after Christmas, having had to work Christmas day.

From Salvation Army Santas in the U.S. to toy drives, the holidays have many structures and traditions that help us to give back. Oftentimes, we need these reminders for perspective on just how good we have it. This year, why not seek inspiration from the Boxing Day tradition and dedicate time to giving back?

Not only will you have a positive impact on someone else, but acts of gratitude (link to gratitude piece) and kindness can also make you feel better. Maybe you’ve heard the old adage that “it’s better to give than to receive.” Philosophies such as these have been shared for centuries, and now science shows us how they're measurably true. Helping others increases our sense of community, which brings a sense of belonging, something many of us crave during the holidays. Studies have shown that giving back helps the body produce many of the “happy” chemicals that improve our moods and decrease stress. And you don’t just have to give money or goods. Random acts of kindness are contagious, and improving the mood around you will create a positive-feedback loop that ultimately helps you feel better, as well.

In the spirit of Boxing Day, we’ve compiled ways to show kindness and practice giving back, both this holiday season and all year long.

  • Volunteer in your community. Is there a charity you’ve always wanted to get involved with, but simply haven’t had the time? Sure, you may want to spend your holiday break vegging out, but taking an afternoon to work at your local food bank will leave you feeling much better than another Netflix binge. 
  • Buy coffee for the person behind you in line. When we treat people we already know, sometimes there’s an idea that they owe you next time, or that there was an expectation to fulfill. Why not treat a stranger? 
  • Practice kindness towards yourself. Remember, “you can’t pour from an empty cup!” Self-love = a greater capacity to love others. 
  • Not sure how to be kinder towards yourself? Try Loving Kindness meditation. Try this video for a guided Loving Kindness meditation if you’re unfamiliar.
  • Give someone a compliment. It’s free! 
  • Make a list of people who you’re grateful for. Have you thanked them? Might be the right time to send them a card, small gift, or even a simple text letting them know you appreciate them. You never know whose day you’ll make!
  • Pay attention. Notice if you’re listening to people while they talk, or if you’re already formulating your response to their words. Sometimes, people simply want to be heard. Give the gift of total presence. 
  • Make someone a playlist. Music helps lift moods, and making someone a playlist is a free and easy way to show them that you care.
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