…does not actually mean the day on which we box up all the Christmas left-overs and try to put them away, or spend the day lying about recovering from the excesses of the Jul feast.. Nor is it a day for the sport of boxing, although in some places boxing matches, among other competitions, are held. Nor, although in the British Commonwealth it is a time, like the day after Thanksgiving, for sales of things which are carried away in boxes, is it actually concerned with sales.
It is, however, an official holiday in the rest of the English speaking world, secularized from the feast of St. Stephen, which itself was adopted by the Church to replace the visitations of mummers, guisers, straw-boys, and hooligans who invaded houses as hunters of the wren. The custom, and the meaning, is very close to trick-or-treating at Hallowe’en. Although these processions of “Wild Men” may have lost some of the potential for violence we hear of in earlier traditions, they represent the incursion of the wild, untamed power of the Otherworld that balances the peace and order of Jul—the earthly representatives of the same power that manifests in the Wild Hunt, as the intercalary days between Jul and New Year’s open the door between the worlds.
When the mummers arrive, what is old and decrepit is swept away. Offer a drink of wassail and a penny to the wild powers as they pass, and receive their blessing.