Boxing Day Meaning, Traditions, Historical Facts and Why Is It Called Boxing Day?

  • AUTHOR: anam
  • POSTED ON: December 24, 2020

It’s time for some history and fact! Get ready for the traditional festive fixture!

Contrary to what you might think, Boxing Day has nothing to do with aggressive men and bloody fistfights. It’s actually a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas on December 26th.

While it’s not observed widely in the United States, Boxing Day is a pretty popular holiday in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Here’s everything you need to know about Boxing Day.

Origins of Boxing Day

The term Boxing Day first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1833. It’s difficult to pinpoint the roots of the word, but many theories help us understand its origins. All of these ideas are linked to a charity that was distributed to the lower class on the day after Christmas.

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The first theory states that on December 26th, lords and aristocrats used to fill up boxes with gifts and Christmas dinner leftovers to give to their servants and employees as a bonus in recognition of their yearly service.

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The second theory states that Boxing Day started with alms collection in churches. Boxes were placed for monetary donations which were later distributed by the clergy among the poor people on December 26th.

Lastly, the third theory refers to a nautical tradition. When ships were set to sail, a box full of money was kept inside for good luck. When the voyage would end as a success that box was given to the priest who distributed the money to the poor folks on the day after Christmas.

In modern times, we see that almsgiving is no longer a tradition and charity drives begin even before Christmas. Still, Boxing day is celebrated, nonetheless, with a few tweaks of course.

Why Has the Charitable Side of Boxing Day Ended?

According to research, by the early 19th century, a lot of debate arose surrounding whether inmates deserve to be treated with beef and beer on Christmas. Many people believed that it should depend on their attitude throughout the year.

By this time, there was also an increase in the lower class and the poor people being treated as an entity. Hence, provision for them became a responsibility of the state and individuals became less involved in it.

Boxing Day is a Bank Holiday

Boxing Day is celebrated as an official bank holiday. In case December 26th falls on a weekend, it’s celebrated on Monday to give people a long weekend to enjoy and relax. It wasn’t always a public holiday.

It changed when football became a huge part of Boxing Day and people took time off work anyway. It gradually became a norm and as business was slow, it turned into an official holiday.

Boxing Day Traditions

Today, most of the holiday’s classic traditions have faded and the day has become more about physical and material pleasures. Boxing day has become all about sports and shopping.

A lot of football, cricket, and rugby matches are arranged and played on Boxing Day. Family and friends gather to watch games together and enjoy leftovers from the Christmas dinner. Turkey sandwiches are an all-time favorite on December 26th.

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Another sport that’s widely popular on Boxing Day is hunting. The animal hunters go after is a fox. Well, technically hunting is outlawed in many countries including England and Wales, but these sports enthusiasts have found a way around it.

This new version of fox hunting involves artificial scents that are tracked by dogs and hunters. It’s also very common to have clashes between protestors and hunters on Boxing Day.

While some people indulge in sports, others go shopping on this public holiday. The ‘Boxing Week’ starts with retailers putting their products on amazing sales. However, in recent years, Boxing Week has somewhat been overshadowed by the American Black Friday Sales that come after Thanksgiving.

Boxing Day in Different Parts of the World

The public holiday is celebrated in different ways around the world—people in Australia and New Zealand host outdoor events such as horse shows and picnics. While the North of Ireland celebrates Boxing Day, the Southern region celebrates St. Stephen’s Day. Others of the island celebrate Wren Day, in which children kill a wren and sell its feather to others for good luck.

It doesn’t matter if the charitable spirit of Boxing Day has faded away; you can still practice generosity and help out people who you believe are struggling to make ends meet. Include them in your celebrations and promote the spirit of giving. The December holiday season is all about taking care of the people around you and appreciating each other.

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Updated December 24, 2020
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