Boxing Day: Meaning, History, Date, Tradition & Activities

July 11, 2022 4 min read

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated after Christmas Day, on the second day of the Christmas season (26 December). Though it began as a day for giving gifts to the poor, Boxing Day is now primarily known as a shopping holiday. Saint Stephen's Day is celebrated on December 26 in parts of Europe, including several regions of Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, and Ireland. Let’s watch out for this blog!

1. What is Boxing day? 

In recent times, the day after Christmas Day, 26 December, has been named "Boxing Day," even when it falls on a Sunday, despite the fact that traditionally, Boxing Day is observed on Monday, 27 December. Saint Stephen's Day, a religious holiday, is also observed on December 26. Despite its unusual name, Boxing Day has nothing to do with brawls, the trashing of empty Christmas boxes, or the return of unwanted gifts to department stores.

2. Why is it called Boxing Day? What is the meaning of this day? 

The name comes from a time when the rich would package gifts to give to the poor. Boxing Day was traditionally a holiday for servants, on which they received a special Christmas box from their masters. It was also a day when servants were given time off and rewarded for their efforts with a "special box" of treats. The servants would then return home and spend the 26th with their own families, sharing the gifts they had just received. The national holiday refers to a nautical tradition as well as a day to celebrate gifts to the poor. As a sign of good fortune, ships setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board. If their journey was successful, their box would be given to a priest, opened on Christmas, and then distributed to the poor.

3. Boxing Day Traditions and Facts

A day off

Boxing Day is a public holiday that is meant as a paid day off in the UK, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Jamaica

Pantomimes

Boxing Day, like Black Friday, sees a boost in sales. Friends and family get together to eat and watch sporting events such as horse racing and soccer. People also go to see "Pantomimes," which are Christmas plays based on children's fairy tales featuring characters such as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.

Jamaican traditions

Boxing Day in Jamaica has a rasta vibe to it. People go to the beach and see Caribbean-themed pantomimes, which are usually performed in Jamaican patois. On Boxing Day, Jamaicans also attend actual boxing matches!

Honor those who serve

Giving money to people who provide you with services throughout the year is one of the oldest Boxing Day traditions. When this tradition began, it was a day when the wealthy gave their servants off. As a token of appreciation, the wealthy would present their servants with a box containing a gift. Today, the custom includes thanking anyone who provides a service, such as your mail carrier or trash collector. In lieu of money, you can also remember those people with a small, simple gift.

Polar bear plunge

Others prefer to take part in the annual Boxing Day plunge into the freezing English Channel with members of various swimming clubs. This daring event raises funds for a variety of charities. Others enjoy participating in or simply watching a regatta, and some are even brave enough to jump into the Channel.

One of nine public holidays in Ireland

Boxing Day is popularly known as ‘Saint Stephen's Day or ‘Feast of Saint Stephen in Ireland. 

To kill a wren bird

Except for Boxing Day, hunting wren birds was considered unlucky. In the past, it was a popular event in England.

Holiday leftovers

Many people tend to spend Boxing Day at home. On this day, it is also customary to invite family and friends over. People enjoy their Christmas gifts, and many prepare a buffet of holiday leftovers such as glazed ham, cold sliced beef, leftover turkey, cold salads, cheese and crackers, pickles, and bread.

Kickoff

On Boxing Day in the United Kingdom, Premier League Football dedicates an entire day to games.

Good luck to sailors

During the Age of Exploration, sailors would collect the money in a box for good luck, which was then distributed to the poor on Boxing Day by a priest.

Taking it literally

Many countries around the world still believe that Boxing Day refers to the sport.

4. How is Boxing Day Celebrated? 

Donate time

If you choose an organization that you care about and volunteer there. Donate blood to a nearby blood bank. Donate to your favorite charity or organization online; the spirit of giving does not have to be limited to the material realm.

Go out on a hike or go play sports

Go and enjoy the scenery; while your countrymen are out shopping, get some fresh air and spend time with your sports teammates or friends. So gather your baseball gloves, skateboards, hiking boots, and footballs and basketballs, and head outside!

Throw a Boxing Day party

Host a party after Christmas with your friends! Don't let the soul die the following day. Make it a purchased gift holiday or a regifting party for all those odd socks Grandma gave you… 

Shopping

Take benefit of the more recent trend of stores opening the day after Christmas with deep discounts. Visit larger chain stores and shopping malls, as smaller businesses are more likely to be closed for the holiday.

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