December 26th is Boxing Day with a wonderful tradition of its own. Observed in the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it started as a day following Christmas when aristocrats, tasked with the welfare of those who worked on their estates, delivered boxes of food and gifts. In South Africa, the occasion evolved into the renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994, and in Ireland it’s called St. Stephen’s Day. The European tradition of giving gifts and money to those in need dates back to the Middle Ages. In Japan, where I grew up in an international community, the lines blurred as New Year’s approached, traditionally a time of gift-giving and debt-settling.
Whatever its multiple and evolving origins, there just seems to be something magical about a Christmas box. What might it contain? Something old? Something new? Something significant? Something trivial? A thing of beauty or usefulness? A prize long-awaited, or a gift of whimsy impulsively chosen?
Before the holiday, I always feel like a Santa’s elf when I place a gift in a box. The crinkle of the colorful tissue, the snap of the wrapping paper, the twist of the ribbons, the placement of the gift tag . . . all the while I’m grinning and chortling to myself, imagining the fun the recipient will have opening the box. After the holiday, out come the storage boxes, which themselves gradually attain a significance as holders of family memories. Ornaments here . . . lights there . . . stockings in this box, angels in that one. Away they go, carefully wrapped until their shining countenances reappear, a bit wiser with yet another Christmas under their wings. Angels inspire me so much I wrote some holiday short stories, among them Whose Angel Key Ring, still available now for free on your Kindle, or for a small fee on your Nook.
The twinkling lights, the scented pine, the thick red candles, the red velvet pillows, all go into their special containers. For me, the angels are the last to be packed. The cherub regarding the dove alighting on its knee; the golden Gabriel blowing his trumpet; the glinting metallic Angelica presiding from the tree top . . . each has its own message, heard a little more clearly in the silence that seems to engulf the house after the holiday hubbub. The Christmas music begins to fade and the last of the eggnog is consumed. The labeled boxes are placed carefully on their storage shelves.
Christmas is a heart-time, and as the red-gold sun sets on Boxing Day, the head seems to be intruding again with its logic and its timetable. But never fear. Like good emotional investments, the memory-treasures stored only increase in value each year in the magical boxes of Christmas.
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