“Do you want to go out? It’s Boxing Day, after all.”
“Boxing Day? Is it another sports tradition, like the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup?” I asked, naïve and still new to Canada.
Go ahead, laugh at me… I had never heard of Boxing Day, and I immediately thought of “boxing”, the combat sport. Because sports matter in North America—this much I had learned after a few months in Canada.
Well, it turned out that “Boxing Day” had nothing to do with sports, unless you consider putting products in a basket, waiting in line and swiping your credit card is an activity involving physical exertion and skill. No, Boxing Day is about the other national sport—shopping.
The holiday is traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day in Canada and most other Commonwealth countries. The exact etymology of the term “boxing day” is unclear and frankly, nobody gives a damn since people focus on deals rather than on the study of the origin of words. Much like Americans during Black Friday, Canadians go crazy on Boxing Day, lured by dramatic price cuts. Many retailers, especially big-box electronic stores, open very early (typically 5 am or even earlier) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. It is not uncommon for long queues to form early in the morning of 26 December, hours before the opening of shops, in the cold.
The concept is a bit strange to me, as October, November and December are already dedicated to Christmas shopping. And then what? You take a break for a day… and shop some more? Sounds like this line from The Simpsons:
Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, what did you and your husband do after you were ejected from the restaurant?
Marge: We pretty much went straight home…
Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, you are under oath!
Marge: We drove around until 3AM looking for another all-you-can-eat fish restaurant.
Hutz: And when you couldn’t find one?
Marge: We went fishing…
As enticing as Boxing Day deals may be, I’m not one to fight my way into a store.
Canadians tend to freak out when stores close for a bank holiday, like on December 25. Because people are used to shop at their convenience, 7 days a week and sometime until late at night, the prospect of not being able to buy something they may need, even for only 24 hours, seems scary. Before every bank holiday, people rush into stores and empty out shelves. It’s crazy.
So of course, Boxing Day, following a bank holiday, is even more important. Must. Shop. Now. It’s like a primal urge, encouraged by marketing and advertising, that mostly plays on the fear of missing out a good deal.
Alright, this was the cynical French in me talking.
The truth is, shopping or hanging out in stores in a convenient pastime during the winter, since outdoor activities are quite limited. We do it too. We just don’t buy anything.
On December 25, Mark opened his presents from Santa, a Duplo boat and a “construction site” mat with a set of small cars. Feng bought me nice soap bars and a new camera bag, I got him the brand new Lonely Planet “The World”. I also bought myself the new Kindle Paperwhite, my old Kindle (2009) was slowly dying—Amazon delivered it on the 24th, pretty impressive customer service considering my order was a last-minute decision.
Then, Feng, Mark and I explored the Rideau Centre—all the stores were closed but the building wasn’t, and it felt like we were in a “I am legend” movie, the only survivors in a terrible apocalypse. Then we went to see Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, and Mark actually lasted the entire movie and was very well behaved. It was fun actually, he even shushed me when I tried to explain him what was going on and when the movie ended, he asked “more movie?”
All in all, we had a pretty good time.
How was your Christmas?