December the 26th is Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day. Most sources agree that the names comes from it's being the day the poor boxes were opened and distributed in churches. It is traditionally a day of family and remembering those less fortunate.
Christmas can be such a time of greedy temptation for small children. What's happening in the lives of other, less fortunate, children around them can be all too easily blocked out. When our children were small, we used the time leading up to Christmas to have them cull through bounty in their rooms and pick out toys to take to the fire station or Goodwill. While we encouraged belief in Santa, Santa only filled stockings and decorated the room at our house. All other presents were from family members. As Dickens says, "The poor are always with us," and we should not hide that from our children, but rather model compassion and caring.
Each year since we've had children, I purchase a Christmas book--a tradition that continues to this day. I am always on the lookout for books that have a great message for the season and this year, Kate DiCamillo wrote a fantastic one called Great Joy. Bagram Ibatoulline provided illustrations that will break your heart. Quite simply it's about a little girl called Frances who becomes concerned about the welfare of an organ grinder and his monkey that stand on a street corner across from her building. She discovers that they sleep on the street and wants to invite them home. Frances' mother voices all the practical reasoning against helping the man, but in the end, Frances finds a way to reach out to the man and the monkey.
As a librarian and a parent, I recommend sharing this book with the children in your lives. It will be a great way to begin a conversation about being a compassionate person. And in the spirit of Boxing Day, I encourage you to make at donation to or volunteer for one of the many fantastic non-profit organizations dedicated to helping the poor. I wish you great joy on this second day of the Christmas season.