Today is Boxing Day, a good day for good deeds. Beginning either some time in the Middle Ages or when Queen Victoria reigned — depending on whose history book you read — Boxing Day is a time to box up holiday leftovers for the hungry, or take-out lunches for the hired help, or alms for the poor. It is traditionally observed on December 26, though sometimes moved around to avoid a Sunday happening.
But now, reports Joel Millman in the Wall Street Journal, it is being taken over for sport.
In some places, Boxing Day really is about pounding on an opponent in the boxing ring. For some fans of fisticuffs, Boxing Day is the biggest boxing day of the year.
That’s certainly the case in Ghana, where tonight Accra’s Ohene Djan Sports Stadium will be rocking with fighters and their fans. The nine-match program starts at sundown. Six bouts are for all-Africa titles, three of those featuring a Ghanaian hero facing a rival from Nigeria. Ringside seats cost 10 Ghanaian cedi, just under $7.
Boxing is a Boxing Day staple across Africa. Besides Ghana, it’s a tradition in Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania — all places where Britons once ruled and left a Boxing Day legacy, if not quite the one Queen Victoria envisioned when she made Boxing Day an official holiday in Great Britain.
Somehow, the insertion of boxing into Boxing Day seems ominous. I went to a boxing match once. Some sports-writer friends of mine at the Richmond Times Dispatch, where I was working in the very olden days, invited me to join them in ringside seats. We got there early, people were skipping around just about at my eye level, beer-drinking was going on with enthusiasm and it boded to be a fine time. Soon, however, the action began. The blue-trunks guy opened a cut above the eye of the red-trunks guy, a tooth may have been knocked out, terrible sounds were heard in the land. When blood started splattering from the cut over the eye, I am still embarrassed to admit, tears starting coming from mine. I was never invited back. I think that was when I started dating a guy from the radio station across the street.
Maybe, we can still hope and trust, people somewhere are boxing up donations for the peace and goodwill of humankind. But this latest news about a once-goodhearted holiday does not bode well for the future.