When I was a young professional, I spent two years teaching at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. My first Christmas in Canada, I discovered that much of the British Commonwealth of Nations celebrates Boxing Day. When I first heard it, I thought it referred to the fact that we have a lot of boxes following Christmas that we have to dispose of or the fact that we box things up and return them to the stores. For, as you no doubt know, the day after Christmas is one of America’s cherished “shopping holidays”.
The origin of Boxing Day in England, however, is a day to celebrate St. Stephen’s Day. Those of you with Christian origins might remember that St. Stephen was stoned to death, apparently with the approval of Saint Paul, as a result his being tried and convicted of blasphemy. Near death, he is said to have seen God.
Historically, Boxing Day is neither a day of shopping, a day to mourn, or a day to look to the heavens. Rather, Boxing Day is a day that refers to a tradition of giving gifts to the less fortunate members of the community. Although we’re in the midst of a recession, this Holiday Season we all have something for which we can be thankful. Perhaps, yesterday, in a moment of reflection, after we cleaned up the mess of our gifting and before we drifted off to sleep after our holiday feast, we had a glimpse of our good fortune. In the grand scheme of things, it was not that long ago when our ancestors were poor, persecuted, or enslaved. Today, many of us know people that are out of work, spending down their savings, or “enslaved” by habits that are counterproductive. Others are trying to stick with their plans, while confronted with the uncertainty and fear of not knowing who or what to trust. The bottom line is that we need each other.
So, on Boxing Day, regardless of your faith, I ask you to remember St. Stephen. Take some time or money and make a small statement about your confidence in your future, by making someone’s present just a little brighter. I’m willing to bet that by sharing your financial success, your generosity will come back to you ten-fold.
ps: If you have a New Year’s resolution that speaks to changes you’re making in your financial management, let me know. I’d love to provide a list of what our readers plan for the New Year and share it next week. (Please send your ideas to me at email@example.com.)
- Robert O. Weagley, Ph.D., CFP(r)
Chair, Personal Financial Planning
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211