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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day Art

Boxing Day Empties, 2005, Lincoln Seligman
Not something most British do on Boxing Day.
Today is Boxing Day. Happy Boxing Day. Unless you live in England or some part of the British Commonwealth such as Canada (below), Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad, Tobago, Jamaica, and other Commonwealth nations, etc., Boxing Day probably doesn't mean much to you. In fact it's altogether possible you've never even heard of such a holiday, though it's quite likely you've probably celebrated it in one form or another without realizing it. In the United States, we don't call it Boxing Day but we do celebrate it, in a manner of speaking, by using the day after Christmas to return all those gifts we don't want for cold, hard, cash; or to exchange those clothing gifts that don't fit for stuff that does. We also use this day as a time to recover from Christmas overindulgence (top) and prepare for New Year's Eve overindulgence less than a week later. With the mindset that every holiday begets its own depiction in the vast ocean of art content, I went looking for that art (paintings mostly) depicting Boxing Day.
 
Boxing Day in Canada, 1930, Armand Paquette--how I remember the day after
Christmas as a child--when we visited all our friends to see what Santa brought them.
First, for those, like myself, who have had little to do with Boxing Day, I guess I should provide a little background as to how this day-after-Christmas holiday came to be and what it has become today. Until a dozen or so years ago, if I'd ever heard of Boxing Day, I thought it was a day when people celebrated throwing away all the boxes their Christmas gifts had once occupied. Just why there should be a special holiday for such a mundane task seemed strange, but then, we celebrate Ground Hog Day in this country on February second each year, which involves far less reasoning. Let me also add that Boxing Day has absolutely nothing to do with the sport of boxing. Actually, in terms of sports, the British tend to associate Boxing Day with fox hunting and rugby rather than pugilism.
 
Boxing Day At Manor Glen, Tony Shore
In England, the holiday falls on St. Stephen's Day, though it has nothing to do with the first century martyr either. It dates back to the 1830s, as a holiday on which postmen, errand boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas box from those they serve. In fact, Christmas boxes go back still further to the seventeenth century, involving a present or gratuity given after Christmas to those who render services to the general public; or are employed by the upper classes as house servants. They, presumably, were at work serving their employers on Christmas Day and so had to wait until the day after Christmas Day to celebrate with their families. In this country, we don't have much in the way of human house servants. However, we do sometimes tip those who serve to make our lives more convenient, though it's usually done before Christmas. In the U.S. virtually all workers (except for those performing absolutely essential services) have Christmas Day with their families.

Among the earliest Boxing Day art, sometime during the mid-19th-century.
Boxing Day, Iryna Ivanova
So, what type of art is associated with such a strangely esoteric holiday. Well, I guess you'd say, strangely esoteric art. As mentioned above, there are lovely winter scenes depicting the upper classes off in pursuit of poor, defenseless foxes. There are paintings of norm-ally sane Brits taking a plunge in the frigid waters of the English channel at Teign-mouth (below) all for charity, of course; cartoons of Santa "chilling" after a hard night's work (bottom), but mostly photos of crazed, bargain-hunting British shoppers (left) going after deeply discounted merchandise not sold before Christmas--kind of like our Black Friday, only after Christmas. Quite frankly it's a holiday which has not generated much in the way of art, much like our American Thanksgiving. It's so overshadowed by Christmas art as to not have generated it's own visual content beyond some really weird disassociations.

Boxing Day Plunge, 2001, Claudia Williams
The main one who should celebrate Boxing Day.






































 

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