Leading article: The real meaning of Boxing Day

There is always a lot of talk about the "real meaning" of Christmas at this time of year – what it is, and whether, why or when it became obscured by a societal obsession with the accumulation of material goods.

All very good, but how about a little more exploration of the real meaning of Christmas Day's neglected successor, Boxing Day? For many people a day notable mainly for hangovers, the taking of bracing walks, the storing away of unwanted gifts and the consumption of leftovers, Boxing Day has a significance that seems to arouse very little passion or interest.

More's the pity, because the meaning of Boxing Day is, in this country, as old as the celebration of Christmas itself. The distribution of gifts for the poor – kept in a box until the day after Christmas Day – dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.

An ancient custom then, and unique to Britain. It may smack of noblesse oblige, but it also speaks of an ideal of generosity that should not date.