The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day in several countries around the world. Have you ever wondered why is it called Boxing Day?
You may have thought it was called Boxing Day because it’s the day you throw away the boxes your Christmas presents came in. As simple as this theory is, there is more to the day. In other words, there is a lot of history to this day. So let’s unbox the mysteries of the day together.
Quick links to information in this post
When is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day is held on 26th December, the day after Christmas Day. In many countries that celebrate Boxing Day this is also a public holiday (also known as a bank holiday). If Boxing Day falls on a weekend then the next week day will be assigned as the public holiday.
Why is it called Boxing Day? Origins of Boxing Day
There are many theories as to when Boxing Day started but here are a few of the most popular.
It’s believed that Romans used boxes to collect money for athletic games. So, when they ruled Britain they brought this practice with them and religious practitioners started to use similar boxes to collect money for the poor at Christmas. Then they would go out on the day right after Christmas and give out the money from those boxes to the poor.
Boxes for staff
In 17th century in the UK, employers would give servants and public workers a ‘Christmas box’ on the first weekday after Christmas. A gift of gratuity to show appreciation for their yearlong work. Usually this gift was money, but children were also given sweets, fruit, or nuts. The servants were given 26th December the day off to go home and visit their family, this is possibly the origin of leftovers on Boxing Day as the cook probably was off duty!
St. Stephen and charity
Outside of the commonwealth, the 26th of December is known as Saint Stephens Day. St Stephen was first martyr of Christianity, killed for believing in Jesus. Saint Stephen is mentioned in the Christmas carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’. St Stephen has long been associated with charity and giving. Some believe this carol inspired Victorian vicars to collect food donations to give out on the day after Christmas.
Boxing Day is first mentioned in the Oxford English Dictionary in the 1830s, and it became a bank holiday in the UK in 1871.
As you can see a big theme in all of the origins is that collections for the poor were handed out on the day following Christmas.
Boxing Day Traditions
Boxing Day traditions vary from family to family. For some, it’s a tradition to watch Boxing Day sports events, as there’s usually horse racing or a football game played on Boxing Day. Up until 2004 Boxing Day was known for traditional Fox Hunts in the UK, but as that is now banned it is less common.
Fun and charity
Boxing Day is a time for many fun and possibly eccentric activities such as a Boxing Day swim in the freezing cold water at the beach or freshwater lakes.
For others, it may be heading out to the shops, making the most out of the Boxing Day sales.
One favourite tradition is to enjoy the leftovers from the Christmas Day dinner. We love to use the leftover meat to make some quick sandwiches, or a tasty pasta salad, an easy leftovers pie, or perhaps a delicious curry.
Others use Boxing Day as another Christmas opportunity to see family and friends with another feast. A popular roast meat on Boxing Day is Glazed Ham.
For many of us, it’s almost always a day of rest with the family, a day to relax after Christmas day, which can be rather full-on.
Which countries celebrate Boxing Day?
Many countries celebrate Boxing Day. For the most part they are the group of countries known as the Commonwealth, or part of the British Isles.
In Ireland, the day is better known as Saint Stephens day. On the day it is a tradition for the Wren boys go out and collect money for charity. The wren boys will go door to door where they sing and dance for the household whilst wearing fancy dress and face paint.
In Hong Kong it is a public holiday however if the day falls on a Sunday, they celebrate it the next weekday instead.
All of Australia, except for the state of South Australia, celebrates Boxing Day as a public holiday.
Proclamation Day in South Australia is the day that celebrates when South Australia was named a British province in 1836 by Captain John Hindmarsh. Originally Proclamation Day was designated to be 28th of December but now it is assigned as a public holiday on the first workday after Christmas, which is often Boxing Day, or 26th December.
Also the world’s biggest annual yacht race begins on the 26th December from Sydney to Hobart.
Boxing Day is a public holiday in Canada and also known for being Canada’s biggest shopping day of the year.
It’s a public holiday in New Zealand, which means for New Zealanders, if they have to work on the day, they get paid 1 ½ times their usual pay.
In South Africa, it’s known as the Day of Goodwill. It was previously known as Boxing Day until 1994. As a result of new leadership, the switch to Day of Goodwill was made.
On the day the people of South Africa continue the spirit of Christmas by donating food, drinks and other items to those less fortunate. Following giving to the poor, people will go to the beach and party with friends and family.
Second Day of Christmas
Some of the countries use the 26th December as a second day of Christmas. In countries such as Holland, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway, the day after Christmas is essentially an extension of the Christmas celebrations.
Hopefully, that has given you a little bit more information on why we celebrate the 26th December and how it went from ‘Christmas box’ day to Boxing Day.
In addition to all this about Boxing Day, if you want to know a little bit more on why we give gifts at Christmas why not check out our post on the matter.