Boxing Day turns to online shopping

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Boxing Day turns to online shopping


The day following Christmas Day is traditionally called Boxing Day. I learned about the day only this year, but in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations, Boxing Day is a big holiday, along with Christmas. Just like Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving Day in America, Boxing Day is a major shopping holiday.

The origin of Boxing Day goes back centuries, and there are several theories about it. One says that merchants used to put Christmas gifts and food for their servants in boxes. According to another theory, lords used to present clothes and grains to the serfs. Another says churches once gave out charity boxes to the needy. At any rate, the day originated from the tradition of the privileged offering gifts and food to the less privileged.

I asked a friend who grew up in the United Kingdom about Boxing Day. She said the most memorable event was visiting different shops to take advantage of sales and promotions. She often received Christmas gifts on Dec. 26, and her family presented small presents such as socks, towels and gloves to the milkman and others. Grown-ups would watch football on television. In other words, Boxing Day is the Christmas after-party.

But in Korea, Boxing Day is the day when online shoppers get busy. The consumers who purchase directly from foreign online shopping sites have to prepare in advance and gather promotional information, and they must start clicking away as soon as sales begin. Credit card companies offer various benefits, such as cash back or additional points, for purchases made on foreign sites.

Nowadays, consumers are buying from foreign sites in larger numbers. According to the Bank of Korea’s tentative national income statistics, domestic consumption grew by 2.6 percent, while overseas consumption went up by 4.3 percent. Expenditure abroad in the third quarter was nearly 6.5 trillion won ($6.13 billion), the largest in history, thanks to brisk overseas tourism and the expansion of purchases made on foreign websites. Now, Korean distributors are suddenly promoting Boxing Day, too. The meaning of Christmas - sharing and helping those in need - has become faint, and Boxing Day as a shopping holiday has arrived.

Interestingly, when a foreign tradition is introduced in Korea, such as Valentine’s Day or Boxing Day, it turns into a commercial event without the essence. As the saying goes, “An orange turns into a tangerine when it crosses the water.” Things will turn out differently if the surroundings change. So we cannot expect foreign traditions to be accepted in Korea in their original form. But it is regrettable that the fruit often turns sour after crossing the water instead of becoming sweeter and juicier.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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