For retailers, this is a difficult time. After the holiday expenses, people are counting every penny. Yet there is a tried and tested way to attract them to the stores. Sales, which sometimes involve huge discounts. In the Anglo-Saxon countries, they start on the second day of the holidays, and the sources of the so-called "Boxing Day" according to some historians go back to the deep Middle Ages.
Christmas gatherings around a sumptuously set table, Christmas presents, New Year's Eve parties - all this is behind us. It's time to take a second breath and return to reality, but first take a deep look into your wallet and get used to the thought that its resources were probably significantly depleted by the end of the year. On the surface, January does not favor shopping. On the other hand, it is often the best moment to "hit" the desired shoes or household appliances. Because retailers, who often still have unsold goods in their warehouses in December, are doing their best to liquidate them. The result: discounts can reach several dozen percent. Welcome to the world of post-holiday sales.
Their peak falls in January, while their beginnings date back to the period between the holidays and New Year's Eve. In the Anglo-Saxon countries, from which this tradition originates, the sales start on the second day of the holidays. It is a time of family gatherings and shared sports emotions - in Great Britain, starting from the end of the 19th century, footballers of the highest class of competition run onto the pitch just after Christmas, and in Australia, the legendary Sydney-Hobart regatta begins. No one works then, except... store staff. On December 26, it was usually referred to as "Boxing Day" (or loosely translated as "box day"), and the etymology of this name is highly significant.
According to some historians, it is derived from a custom that dates back to the Victorian era. On the second day of the holidays, members of the aristocracy gave small gifts to the servants. They were meant to compensate for the inconvenience of the servants, cooks, and delivery people who had to stay at the beck and call of their masters during Christmas, which undoubtedly could have an impact on the quality of their family life. December 26 was to be their day. Meanwhile, some researchers, such as American writer and traveler Bill Bryson, in search of the origins of "Boxing Day" go back to the Middle Ages. At that time, metal boxes were placed in churches for alms during Advent. The faithful put coins in them. On the second day of the holidays, the priests opened the boxes and distributed their contents to the poor. This was to honor St. Stephen, sometimes called St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who was stoned to death in Jerusalem by the Sanhedrin several years after the death of Jesus.
St. Stephen is probably also associated with another custom from Ireland. In ancient times, on the second day of the holidays, groups of boys ran after wrens. Among other things, they are distinguished by the fact that they sing even in cold weather. In Holland, for example, the wren was called the "king of winter". According to Irish customs, it symbolized the past year. And taking into account all the shortcomings with which the country has been struggling for centuries, it was not a very pleasant association. That is why the boys threw stones at the birds. And if one of them was killed, it was packed into a box and carried around the houses to ward off evil and ensure the inhabitants good luck for the next few months. In a more accessible version, the wren was "only" caught in a box and a live procession went around the farms after the holidays. Today, needless to say, the bestial custom has been greatly softened. On the second day of the holidays, colorful masqueraders and musicians, commonly known as "the Wrenboys", take to the streets. No more hunting birds, but collecting donations for charity.
A similar custom was practiced on the Isle of Man. However, the local legend, tracing its roots back to Celtic times, devoted a bit more space to the symbolism associated with the kingfisher. According to it, the "king of birds" is an incarnation of the goddess Tehi Tegi, who was so beautiful that she gathered a crowd of admirers around her. Men lost their heads for her, and in the process neglected their farms and loved ones. In addition, they were so insistent that eventually the goddess had enough of them. She lured them to the river, encouraged them to enter the water, and then drowned them. An enraged people wanted to kill her, but she managed to turn into a kingfisher and flee. Every year she returns to the island at the end of December, but then hunts are organized for her.
So at the roots of "Boxing Day" lie customs related to giving to one's neighbors - whether in a material or more symbolic sense. Trade has little to do with it, although if someone tried hard enough, certain analogies could be found. After all, if the discounts offered by the store are really significant and we can buy the desired thing for a fraction of its original price, it's a bit like giving ourselves a present.
In the United States, the UK, and Canada, post-holiday sales have become an established tradition. Some are even willing to compare "Boxing Day" to the shopping frenzy of "Black Friday". However, this tradition has not yet reached Poland. But the law of supply and demand is doing its job. While in the PRL after the end of Christmas holidays, a large part of the shops were closed and the windows were adorned with notices of a clearance sale, now on December 27th shopping malls are doing their best to generate another shopping peak. Last year, for many reasons, it was not particularly successful in this regard. This still remains a mystery. According to a survey conducted by Deloitte at the beginning of December, the average Pole planned to spend 2129 PLN on Christmas preparations, which is eleven percent more than the previous year. The change was the result of rising prices, but not only. Now the question remains whether Mr. Kowalski had enough money in his wallet after the Christmas expenses to jump into the shopping frenzy? Or will the rising prices of gas, electricity, fuel, and generally the cost of living be an effective brake? Time will tell. The season of post-Christmas sales usually lasts until the end of January.
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